We now have dropped numerous digital ink on the subject of robotaxis up 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 expertise marches on and new milestones are set. However in all of this time, I really feel like one facet of the argument hasn’t typically been nicely expressed or completely expressed. Nicely, it’s extra of a “each of these items can’t be true” argument.
In a latest remark thread beneath one in every of my articles, the reader “citizenjs” wrote what I’d say is an excellent touch upon this matter. It’s simple and pretty easy, however thorough and nicely defined. And it’s merely written in a method that I discover it laborious to refute. Right here’s their remark:
The best way I see it, there’s one thing of a difficulty with the proposition that TAAS [Transportation as a Service] might be actually, actually low cost (some say cheaper than public transit fares) and on the identical time might be actually, actually worthwhile. If you happen to have a look at Lyft and Uber, they’re cheaper than conventional taxi providers, however they’re nowhere close to as low cost as TAAS is projected to be. And neither Lyft or Uber may be very worthwhile (the truth is, 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, and so they’ve additionally outsourced all accountability for car buy, gas, upkeep, car cleansing, and many others. to the identical undercompensated “unbiased 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 actually low cost, the place do the income 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 possible that it might, however once more, by how a lot?), you then would suppose that extra folks would select to make use of that as a substitute of proudly owning their very own automobiles. However then again, TAAS might be competing with private car possession that can possible be considerably cheaper than private car possession is at present (capital, vitality, 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 residence). So the mileage breakpoint at which private possession is cheaper than TAAS will not be 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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