Drive yourself cabs: What will the impact be?

Drive yourself cabs: What will the impact be?

ARTICLE 2

Drive yourself cabs: What will the impact be?

“Transport is an evolving issue, subject to consequences beyond the simple provision of services, so it will be years until we properly understand the impacts of drive-yourself cabs,” Le Vine believes.

But his research suggests that likely impacts could be:

1) A much larger market than traditional car-sharing (about four times as many subscribers)

2) A roughly 4% reduction in personal car ownership

3) About a 1% decrease in car driving vehicle miles travelled (including personal cars, traditional car-sharing, and drive yourself cabs)

4) About a 1% decrease in the number of public transport journeys

“We can be reasonably certain that some unexpected impacts will be revealed”, he adds. “It may be at some future point that urban authorities are not happy with the knock-on effects, and there may be desires to regulate the industry like any other.

But for the moment we don’t understand it well enough to do anything other than let the operators experiment and keep tabs on what’s happening.”

The implications on traffic levels and CO2 are a key issue, and it’s unfair – as some suggest – to hold this new industry to a no-net-traffic/CO2 standard, comments Le Vine. “We don’t do that to taxis or minicabs, or indeed to the automotive or urban transport sectors more broadly.”

He suggests that a fairer standard, admittedly more complex to administer, would be to assess whether net value is created after accounting for effects on traffic levels, emissions and more. “In other words: get the prices right, just like the economics textbooks say.”

The big question that public transport providers needs to think through is what would transport in London and other big cities look like if drive-yourself taxi systems went viral and travellers came to depend on them. Could there be for instance, instead of 500 of these ‘collective cars’, 50,000?

Then there would be a whole new set of issues to be taken into account. Maybe on-road congestion would be replaced by virtual queuing to get access to a car, Le Vine muses.

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