By developing self-driving vehicles like this Ford automakers are creating the technology necessary to make robo-taxis a reality ©Ford
By developing self-driving vehicles like this Ford automakers are creating the technology necessary to make robo-taxis a reality ©Ford

Robo-taxis set to transform urban mobility

6 September 2016

Consumers are willing to embrace technology of “robo-taxis” and self-driving vehicles in cities, according to a new report.

The number of cars on city streets could drop by up to 60% through the widespread urban adoption of self-driving vehicles (SDVs) and self-driving taxis, said a report by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) prepared in collaboration with the World Economic Forum.

Tailpipe emissions could also drop by about 80%, with 90% fewer road accident, the report claims.

The report, Self-Driving Vehicles, Robo-Taxis, and the Urban Mobility Revolution, surveyed more than 5,500 consumers in ten countries, and found that consumers are “by and large…more than willing to give them a try”.

While broad consumer adoption of SDVs will bring about major changes, the real revolution in urban mobility will come with widespread adoption of robo-taxis, the report found.

Nikolaus Lang, a BCG senior partner and report co-author, said: “Ride-shared, electric robo-taxis can substantially transform and improve urban transportation and, by direct extension, livability.”

This could happen by providing more people with easier access to mobility, making streets safer, and freeing up space no longer needed for parking, he said.

“The major players—industry, consumers, and policymakers—are excited and engaged,” he said.

More than half of consumers surveyed – 58% - said they were open to trying out SDVs, with 63% of those aged 29 or younger willing to do so, compared with 46% of consumers aged 51 or older.

Willingness to embrace the new technology was greatest in emerging markets. In India 85% were willing to try the vehicles, while consumers in Japan and the Netherlands were most reluctant with only 36% and 41% respectively in favour of trying SDVs.

The convenience of parking assistance and an increase in productivity while travelling were cited as the top two benefits of the vehicles.

Interviews with 25 urban policymakers in 12 cities revealed that 60% of these policymakers expect that by 2025, at least one city will have banned traditional cars and this change will be partly due to robo-taxi fleets.

One quarter of respondents believe that this will happen by 2030.

Policymakers envisaged the private sector taking the lead in providing robo-taxi services.

Trials involving SDVs are underway in cities such as Singapore, London, and Gothenburg in Sweden where a pilot fleet of 100 SDVs will be launched on its ring road in 2017.

BCG said stakeholders are also addressing the societal, legal, and regulatory issues that will arise from SDVs.

In the US, the Department of Transportation has mounted a Smart City Challenge, with up to $40 million funding to be allocated to the mid-sized city that puts forward the most attractive pilot proposal.

Sweden and Germany have already loosened legal barriers to SDV testing, as long as the driver can take control when necessary.

Countries including Austria, France, the Netherlands and the UK are also in the process of adopting SDV legislation.

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