I just read an interesting article saying that taxi drivers will become extinct. It talked about technology and self-driving cars becoming the norm and said “the requirement that a taxi has a driver will fall by the wayside.” Their contention is that taxi drivers will be replaced by impersonal artificial intelligences that never try to take you on a shortcut that ends up adding five dollars to the fare.
My first thought, after I got past the disbelief that there would be self-driving cars on the road, was that where I live, there are a lot of elderly people who depend on taxi drivers to take them to doctors appointments, grocery shopping, and the airport. If taxis are self-driving, who will help these people with their luggage and their groceries as well as helping them to walk if it should be necessary?
But the author didn’t get it right. Taxi drivers aren’t being replaced by impersonal artificial intelligences steering driverless cars; they’re being replaced by some startup companies that are offering better service to consumers.
It seems a few of these companies are already on the road in major cities. The service is unique in that they don’t hire their drivers or have their own vehicles. They use people who are licensed drivers and who have their own car. It’s gaining in popularity because a user can arrange for a limousine with a smartphone app and pay directly on their phone. They can also rate the drivers.
I would have loved to rate some of the taxi drivers that I’ve had. For the most part, they won’t turn on the air-conditioning no matter how hot it is. They have dirty cars, and keep the meter running after they pull up at your destination. They take the long way around even when you tell them to go a different way, and they are arrogant and just plain nasty.
Some drivers are nice but they are few and far between. Unfortunately, I don’t live in a metropolitan area where I could avail myself of the new service. In time, this kind of startup business will gain traction in areas like mine but for now, we have to put up with dirty cars and arrogant drivers.
But competition can force people to change or lose their customers and this concept is definitely an idea whose time has come.