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Are autonomous vehicles a private hire opportunity or an industry threat?

Autonomous vehicles have been a point of discussion for a number of years, with questions arising on the probability of them hitting the road soon, where liability lays and whether the technology, and in fact our infrastructure, is ready for this game-changing way in which we travel.

But what will car manufacturers do once vehicles can drive themselves? Will they continue with the same old sales model or look to adapt to the new driver landscape, introducing a model where we only rent vehicles when needed?

For us in the taxi and private hire industry, driverless vehicles could certainly be seen as an appealing advance. There’d be no drivers to employ, therefore no holiday, sickness or shift patterns to work out, and certainly no arguments about who gets the best job. Driverless vehicles could work 24/7, which, on the surface, seems like the perfect ‘utopia’ for companies in our sector.

But it is very unlikely it will be this simple. Firstly, we have to consider the human cost; we’re talking about the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands in the UK alone. Secondly, it’s highly possible that traditional private hire operators won’t be afforded the opportunity to purchase a fleet of this nature.

For some time now, car manufacturers, and the major component producers, have been quietly linking up with the world’s technological giants. In addition to its own driverless vehicles, Google is seeking to install its self-driving software in Ford vehicles, while Microsoft are working with Toyota and GM invested $500M to co-develop the concept of autonomous vehicle fleets, for use by ride-hailing service Lyft.

These great advances and sharing of technologies between the two industries, certainly raises a lot of questions for the future; What will its effects be on the private hire sector, is it doomed to fade out like the horse and cart at the introduction of the combustion engine? And, if car manufacturers morph into tech companies, will they become the Uber of tomorrow?

Only time will tell.

LandFlight Director, Danny Matthews

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