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Do Robotaxis Actually Have Any Hope?

We’ve dropped a whole lot of digital ink on the subject of robotaxis prior to now a number of years. I’ve to confess that I used to be as soon as extra bullish about them than I’m now, even because the know-how marches on and new milestones are set. However in all of this time, I really feel like one facet of the argument hasn’t usually been effectively expressed or completely expressed. Effectively, it’s extra of a “each of these items can’t be true” argument.

In a current remark thread underneath certainly one of my articles, the reader “citizenjs” wrote what I’d say is a superb touch upon this matter. It’s easy and pretty easy, however thorough and effectively defined. And it’s merely written in a method that I discover it exhausting to refute. Right here’s their remark:

By citizenjs

The way in which I see it, there’s one thing of a problem with the proposition that TAAS [Transportation as a Service] will probably be actually, actually low cost (some say cheaper than public transit fares) and on the identical time will probably be actually, actually worthwhile. If you happen to have a look at Lyft and Uber, they’re cheaper than conventional taxi companies, however they’re nowhere close to as low cost as TAAS is projected to be. And neither Lyft or Uber may be very worthwhile (in actual fact, each have misplaced cash for a lot of their existence). Now the straightforward reply is that TAAS would have decrease labor bills, however Lyft and Uber have already got fairly low labor bills, they usually’ve additionally outsourced all duty for car buy, gasoline, upkeep, car cleansing, and many others. to the identical undercompensated “impartial contractors” (who in lots of markets are making little or no in spite of everything bills, particularly when together with car depreciation). And TAAS would profit from decrease car working prices than present ICE prices, however these nonetheless received’t be trivial. So if TAAS is de facto low cost, the place do the earnings come from? And if TAAS isn’t actually low cost, the place will all the additional riders come from?

If TAAS can undercut experience hailing costs (and it appears doubtless that it may, however once more, by how a lot?), then you definitely would suppose that extra folks would select to make use of that as a substitute of proudly owning their very own automobiles. However alternatively, TAAS will probably be competing with private car possession that may doubtless be considerably cheaper than private car possession is as we speak (capital, power, and upkeep prices are all projected to be decrease than that of ICE automobiles, though “fueling” is perhaps much less handy for folks with out charging at dwelling). So the mileage breakpoint at which private possession is cheaper than TAAS is probably not a lot completely different than it’s now with ICE possession vs. experience hailing, and if that’s the case, then TAAS received’t turn into a dominant alternative, besides perhaps in locations like dense cities the place automotive possession is unusually costly and inconvenient.

Featured picture: AutoX BYD robotaxi fleet in Shenzhen, courtesy of NVIDIA & AutoX.


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