Saturday, January 7, 2017

Are there any positive implications of autonomous cars on jobs in taxi industry?

Many people have raised concerns about the negative impact of autonomous cars on people’s ability to make living as Uber, Lyft, or regular taxi drivers.

Clearly autonomous cars will eliminate the need for drivers and hence people’s ability to make a living as drivers-for-hire. Let us dig a little bit deeper in this area and figure out if autonomous cars will create opportunities for people in the taxi industry to make money in some other way.

The cost associated with driving a personal car is approximately 50 cents per mile. This estimate includes the cost of a modest car, gasoline, insurance, and maintenance. The labor cost of drivers makes the cost of taxis four to six times higher. Taxi fares should go down dramatically once autonomous cars become mainstream. This will make taxi services a lot more affordable. Hopefully, this will encourage people to spend more time in taxis.

Once people start spending more time in taxis in complete privacy, they might want to spend that time more productively from work and/or leisure perspectives. Here are examples of activities that they might do in autonomous taxis:
  • Doing video conferencing
  • Eating
  • Getting manicure/pedicures
  • Personal grooming
  • Watching movies
  • Shopping
  • Taking scenic detours
  • Wine tasting
  • Checking blood pressure
The above list just gives a few examples. Basically, autonomous cars will have captive customers and a wide variety of services can be offered to them by creative people. New technologies will create new service possibilities that cannot be imagined today. This should give creative people an opportunity to make money by offering services to people in autonomous taxis.

Designing such services and offering them will require a different skill set than driving. Hopefully, a proactive discussion about such service possibilities will help people get ready for the future when driving skills will be inadequate to earn a living.

I am curious to know your thoughts on what services can be offered to people spending time on autonomous taxis.