As driverless cars meet ride-sharing, people need to prepare themselves for a new normal.

The Driverless Car in a Ride-Sharing World

The Workplace Today Industry Insights & Trends

Bringing together the key transportation tech trends of the driverless car and ride-sharing could legitimize both for consumers — and ease their fears.

It happens time and again — key trends have a tendency to converge, and many times this convergence ultimately influences the continued evolution of both trends. Most recently it has been the merging of the Internet, cloud computing, big data and mobility to fuel what is now known as the digital economy. Fortunately, it’s the growth of this digital environment that’s paving the way for other technology-fueled trends to flourish.

The idea of combining the driverless car with the ever-growing ride-sharing concept may be the perfect example of how tech trend convergency manifests in tangible ways to disrupt an industry.

A convergence will serve as a meaningful way to inform everyone involved, including auto manufacturers and ride-share service providers, where changes are necessary, especially to gain widespread acceptance. According to a recent Fortune article, the potential is phenomenal, and it goes beyond the bottom line. “New transportation options could affect how cities are planned, requiring fewer parking places and more zones for picking up passengers and dropping them off,” the article explains. “It could also increase how much people travel—because of its lower cost and convenience—by up to 30 percent more miles.”

Looking at Feasibility

Understandably, there is hesitation from a user perspective in embracing the autonomous vehicle. In fact, three out of four U.S. drivers said they would feel “afraid” to ride in self-driving cars, according to the AAA survey released earlier in 2016. According to survey results, the primary concerns center around doubting the vehicle and technology’s reliability, as well as dealing with the issue of giving up control. However, numerous experiments have shown that people’s minds quickly changed after having a short, positive experience with the technology. The continued introduction of advanced technologies including adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning or self-parking could play a significant role in easing the hesitations.

Not only has consumer focus intensified recently on the driverless car, as IndustryWeek suggests, but there are also some pretty big names putting money behind bringing these two growing automotive trends together. Specifically, the article mentions that “Ford unveiled plans to develop a ride-sharing service using autonomous vehicles. And Google’s Waze Carpool, presently an invitation-only kind of car-sharing service, also has been developing self-driving autos. Google, incidentally, just logged 2 million miles on the odometer of its own self-driving car program, but has not yet disclosed a business plan for its vehicles.”

Another major thought leader in the next-generation automotive space, Tesla, has also announced a compelling convergence concept.

In Action

Of course, the key to successfully bringing these trends together is to move beyond theory and actually apply the concept in the real world. After all, viable proof is always in practice — something that is currently underway via Uber in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a city known for its many driving obstacles as well as its widespread acceptance of ride-sharing. With Pittsburgh’s many bridges, the vehicle manufacturer’s use of environmental data will undoubtedly face a few hurdles. However, it will also serve as an outstanding opportunity to demonstrate the built-in safety precautions, as well as the manufacturers willingness to adapt and evolve as the operating market dictates.

To encourage its use in the Pittsburgh market, Uber is initially offering free rides in each of the autonomous vehicles. Not only will this help in gaining acceptance, it will provide a convenient way for both parties to garner data and feedback. Uber is also logging each of its road tests with plans to utilize the data to tweak how the cars should respond in specific situations. For example, the cars know that when they arrive at a four-way stop they should drive on in order of when they arrived. But what happens when another car fails to respect that order? It knows it should stop if another car jumps the gun, but it should also know to go if another car takes too long.

Looking forward, if this test is a success, it could spark the introduction of much larger driverless ride-sharing concepts including a move towards mass transit vehicles. The question is, would you be willing to climb aboard?

Peter Fretty
Peter Fretty

As a highly experienced freelance journalist, Peter Fretty has written thousands of feature articles and cover stories for an assortment of trade journals, business publications and consumer magazines. With a B.A. in Business Management and an M.B.A. in Marketing and Communications, Fretty spent roughly fifteen years working in various capacities in the aerospace, automotive and telecommunications industries. Fretty has since worked with over forty publications as well as co-authored a book with Dr. Shelton Rhodes which focuses on government contracting.