Joan Claybrook is a former administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Jacqueline S. Gillan is president emeritus of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.
D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) announced last year that the District would be the corporate testing ground for Ford’s driverless vehicles. Throughout our careers in highway and auto safety, we have strongly and successfully advocated for the adoption of proven vehicle safety technologies such as air bags, rollover prevention systems and, more recently, rearview cameras that have collectively saved tens of thousands of lives and prevented millions of injuries. We do not fear new technology, but we do fear being guinea pigs for testing vehicles equipped with experimental technology and exempted, as current law allows, from existing safety requirements on crowded city streets.
A coming milestone in the automobile world is the widespread rollout of Level 4 autonomy, where the car drives itself without supervision. Waymo, the company spun out of Google’s self-driving car research, said it would start a commercial Level 4 taxi service by late 2018, although that hadn’t happened as of press time. And GM Cruise, in San Francisco, is committed to do the same in 2019, using a Chevrolet Bolt that has neither a steering wheel nor pedals.
These cars wouldn’t work in all conditions and regions—that’s why they’re on rung 4 and not rung 5 of the autonomy ladder. But within some limited operational domain, they’ll have the look and feel of a fully robotized car. The question is how constrained that domain will be.
2018 was another big year for ride-sharing services as they continued to disrupt the broader mobility market. It’s been little more than five years since passengers began hailing cars through smartphone apps, but services like Uber and Lyft are now mainstream, challenging traditional taxi operations and even surpassing them in a number of cities, including New York, the biggest ride-hailing market in the U.S.
Beyond taxis, ride-sharing services have also presented challenges to rental car companies like Hertz and Avis, and even threatened to disrupt traditional car ownership in cities since hailing a ride wherever you are has never been easier or more convenient. The so-called driverless car revolution would only hasten the transition to ride-sharing by making the service cheaper, eliminating the need and cost for a driver.
Below are the four most popular ride-sharing services this year in the U.S.
Orlando Uber and taxi riders will have to wait a little bit longer for the launch of UberTaxi.
The option, which allows riders to hail a cab from the Uber app, was supposed to be up and running by the end of 2018 thanks to a new partnership between the ride-sharing app and Mears Transportation, one of the Southeast United States’ largest taxi companies.
But limited personnel and a busy holiday season has pushed the launch into January 2019, said Roger Chapin, a spokesman for Orlando-based Mears.
“We didn’t want to launch a new product over the holidays. Drivers are very busy,” Chapin said in a statement. “It would have been tough for Mears to perform the necessary training for drivers, and we decided with limited time and some limited internal resources due to [the] holidays to delay.”
Chapin said the companies expect to launch the new feature within the first two weeks of January 2019.
UberTaxi is already available in other cities, including Boston and Washington, D.C.