Robots Should Drive My Taxi

During my three years in Singapore, majority of things have improved.

Trying to get taxis and travelling with them is however becoming more frustrating every day. I mostly use public transport. Both bus and MRT lines work perfectly (at least in my routes). Usually when I select taxi, the selection is based on urgency instead of convenience. Quite often the service experience is not really pleasant.

The rise of the taxi apps has been double-edged sword. On the other hand they have enabled you to get taxis to areas where you could not really wave a cab before. On the other hand every taxi driver is now just circling areas and waiting for pre-booking fees from the apps. Also apparently some taxi companies try to force their drivers not to use the best app (Grabtaxi) and to use only their own apps.

Taxi booking apps and arrival of Uber in Singapore are hopefully just a start in Taxi revolution. I am waiting for the time that the robot cars will revolutionize taxi industry:

Singapore would be a perfect place to test self-driving taxis: small area which is mostly documented in GPS, not many cyclists, predictable traffic, predictable weather, good roads, etc.

Here are six reasons why I would select robot over human driver any time:

1. No mistakes

Google´s self-driving cars have crashed twice. First time a human was driving the car. Next time a human rear-ended Google´s car. I would feel much safer with robot driving my taxi, than have my human driver watching Korean drama from his iPad and fixing his smartphone while speeding on highway (real story). Airplanes are majorly automatically flown nowadays which has reduced the accidents. Majority of the flight crashes are caused by human error. Comparing the

2. No explaining routes
“PIE or ECP*?” was my crash course to Singaporean acronyms. I thought that the driver was referring to some part drugs. Taxi driver should better equipped as a professional to select the right expressway. Especially compared to me, as I am still occasionally thinking that traffic goes to wrong direction.

The point of taxi service is that client needs to only know where he wants to go. Driver should know how to get there. Quite seldom that is the case. I have realized that I am actually checking the routes before hopping into taxi to instruct the drivers. This is waste of my time. For some odd reason majority of taxi drivers do not use GPS maps in Singapore.

Getting from point A to B is not rocket science. Google Maps gets you quite far. Waze gets you even further (both owned by Google though). Robot-driving car would utilize these tools with ease.

3. No shift changes or general laziness
Nothing frustrates more than seeing green cabs refusing to take you where you want to go because it is not on the right direction for the driver. Taxi should be a service business.

There is something fundamentally wrong with incentive system for cab drivers in Singapore. Drivers can just cherry-pick easy drives and even stop driving if they feel like it.

Robot driver does not need sleep, go to toilet or have any of other hindrances human drivers have. It would just keep on driving. Self-driving car would not discriminate depending on where you are going. Or throw tantrums at you because you just happen to live close to the airport.

4. No hiding in the rain
Whenever it starts to rain, taxis disappear. Based on the studies many taxis don´t pick up passengers during rain. They are afraid of accidents, because taxi companies will deduct them 1000 SGD immediately after accident. You will get it back, if you are not to blame of the accident. Again that is fault of the system, but eventually consumers will suffer. You usually need taxis more when it rains and not the vice versa.

Driving in rain, even heavy rain is not even that difficult. People are driving in snowstorms and icy roads all the time in Nordic countries. Robot drivers would not have extra jinx because of the conditions and could automatically adjust their driving style to any weather.

5. No annoying bantering during your trip
From planner perspective talking to taxi drivers is always beneficial.

You get answers and firm POV on about everything you could even think of. I can also understand that quite many people do not necessarily want to hear driver´s view on air pollution, politics or prostitutes in Geylang. Instead you could tune your favorite playlist in Spotify and enjoy a smooth ride from place A to B.

6. No obstacle to card payment
Paying with card in Taxis is a troublesome experience. Despite the card stickers on windows, majority of the drivers try to avoid card payment by any means.

Therefore you try to always pay with cash. Even then you are scolded by paying with too big notes (usually 50 dollars, which just happens to be the standard note from ATMs). Automatic cars could just take your card without complaints and no worries when they will receive the money to their bank account.

Don´t get me wrong. There have been awesome taxi drivers who have saved me multiple times by getting me on time to the airport. Still I am firm advocate of constant development. Currently the service level you get from human drivers would easily be matched and improved by self-driving taxis. I am definitely the first one testing the driverless car.

*These refer to Singaporean expressways (East Coast Parkway and Pan Island Expressway).

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