LONDON PRIVATE hire company Addison Lee has announced it will take part in a study to look at the feasibility of using driverless cabs in the capital.
The Camden-based minicab firm is set to team up with Ford, the Transport Research Laboratory and Transport Systems Catapult, to form a government-backed consortium to develop a blueprint for a driverless public transport system in London.
The consortium’s research has found that by 2025 a third of private hire journeys could be replaced and that 30 per cent of taxi and private hire journeys could be served by autonomous ride-sharing.
Addison Lee’s chief executive Andy Boland said: “Part of the initiative will assess which aspects of public transport services could be modified going forward, such as buses, which are crammed in the morning and then empty during the course of the day.
“The other main part of the initiative is to work out what these services could be and I think you could think about it in terms of shared rides, or private rides in autonomous vehicles.
“It could be shuttles running fixed routes and all of that interacting with today’s public transport network. The roads are empty during the day and you can’t move around in the evening in the rush hour, it doesn’t make any sense.”
DRIVERS REPLACED BY ROBOTS? – A number of academic studies have predicted the death of the minicab driver job as autonomous vehicles take over but Addison Lee group director of mobility Paul McCabe said the future might not be so bleak for PHV cabbies and associated office staff.
Mr McCabe added:
I think there is no doubt that the technology is coming and we are not ignoring what we could do in terms of jobs and opportunities. To make autonomous work you’ve got to have a really strong customer service wrapping around all that and that involves people.
“People are really important to delivering a good customer service experience to people who may be using autonomous vehicles and we see it as an opportunity for job creation and growth.”
Boland said he was also optimistic about the prospect for jobs in a driverless vehicle economy.
“There are changes on the horizon right across the economy and there will be shifts in skills required and jobs over time. But, actually for the forseeable future for us, the coalescence and living together of autonomous services, driving services and extra jobs and service provision and that rapidness needed, I think it is quite positive overall.”
Where we are 20, 30 years from now, who knows, but actually, for the forseeable future for us, the prospect for jobs for drivers and for other service provision within our organisation is good.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR THE LONDON CAB TRADE? – Boland said it was not for him to comment on Uber’s fight with TfL but did say that people not computers still have a part to play in taking people from A-to-B.
“As this whole area matures, the relevance and importance of passenger safety, consistency of service and end-to-end support for customers is really important. You need that full range of occupational capabilities to do that and that dislocation we have seen, it’s kind of a symptom of that.
“These services need to grow up and I think what we see is a situation where most people in the (London cab) market today, apart from Addison Lee, every one of our competitors in London is consistently losing money, as there is nobody else profitable in the market.”