What a Driverless Taxi Company Will Look Like

September 11. 2016. 4 mins read

Pretty much every single major auto company is pouring money into developing a driverless car with plenty of startups looking to play in this space as well. We also have companies like Zoox that are looking to build a driverless taxi from the ground up. This is perhaps one of the most ambitious companies out there and their business model makes the most sense. It makes sense because in order for a driverless taxi company to be truly automated, you need to completely redesign the electric car. Here’s what the Zoox driverless taxi might look like:

Driverless Taxi

So the basic model of Zoox is for driverless electric cars that are hailed via an app to pick up passengers from location A and drop them at location B. That’s what your basic driverless taxi business model looks like. We’ll assume that these cars run 24/7 and that artificial intelligence is used to optimize where they should be operated in based on population movements, events being held like concerts, historical trends, etc. Now let’s look at what other problems Zoox will need to address before their driverless taxi company becomes a reality.

Car Accidents

What happens when one of these cars has an accident? Firstly, every single piece of information is available to piece together exactly who is at fault should a human have been driving the other car. A human “crisis manager” is engaged and is immediately dispatched to the scene to engage with the passenger and other vehicles involved. Remember that car accidents will pretty much go away and there may even be a point where only certain streets allow human drivers.

Taxi Breaks Down

In the future we could imagine a driverless tow truck going out and fetching driverless taxis that have broken down. This seems highly unlikely though as the IoT sensors that will be employed throughout these driverless electric taxis will let you know ahead of time if any one of the four independent electrical motors that drive the four wheels is going to fail. Even if one does, you still have 3 left.

Flat Tires

If we master the driverless car and still haven’t managed to figure out how to keep tires from going flat then we have all our priorities in the wrong place. We will have mastered the run-flat tire by then such that the vehicle can return to the garage and have its tires changed automatically with no human intervention required.

Left Items

Left items become a non-issue because there are sensors inside the cab that scan the seats for left items and alerts the passenger of the left item before the door closes. Should something be left inside the taxi, it will return to the garage for collection where it can then be delivered to the owner via another driverless car.

Unruly Passengers

Acts such as vomiting, hanging out windows, mating, etc. create issues and each one of these needs to be dealt with. Sensors can detect vomit and other bodily fluids so a quick trip back to the garage can take care of those issues. Passengers behaving recklessly inside the cab will be banned from the company and/or charged accordingly (their credit card is on file after all). Expect everything in the cab to be on video for liability reasons which should help deter such incidents.

Car Maintenance

The ideal driverless taxi will require little maintenance because it will be fully electric. In the case of the Zoox taxi, each wheel will have its own electric engine so it’s like a plane with 4 jet engines that can still fly even if 3 malfunction. Batteries can be swapped in and out quickly with no human intervention. The vehicles can be washed and cleaned (inside and out) with no human intervention. Every single maintenance aspect will be digitally diagnosed and fully automated. Certain events such as defects in the platform, major vehicle overalls, etc. will require the driverless taxis to exit the ecosystem where a human “robotics engineer” will take over.

General and Admin Expenses

At this point we have a fully automated driverless taxi company that requires very little human intervention with the exception of “crisis managers” and “robotics engineers”. Accounting is fully automated. The utilities (electricity/water) used to run the entire operation and consumables such as brake fluid, and battery coolant will be tracked automatically and logged against a fully automated accounting ledger. A time tracking system is used to account for human labor and log it against the ledger. Speaking of which, here are some of the jobs that robots won’t be stealing in our fictional driverless taxi company:

  • Robotics Engineers: Providing support for the entire platform, fixing the robots when they break, and handling “exceptions”
  • Crisis Managers: Handling customer support incidents such as vehicle accidents, insurance claim exceptions, and investigating the occasional customer complaint.
  • Human Resources: Handles hiring and firing of all roles
  • Marketing Managers: Handle the contracts for corporates to broadcast advertisements within the cabs. “Commercial free” cabs are available for a fee.
  • Senior Management: Makes strategic decisions that are in the best interest of the shareholders and aided by artificial intelligence.

Decision making becomes exceptionally easy because artificial intelligence is used for forecasting and for the corporate entity to give “guidance” to investors. In the future, all corporations will move towards becoming self-sufficient entities but that’s a story for another time.

The key takeaway here is that just because you built a driverless electric taxi that doesn’t crash, it doesn’t mean that your job is done. There are many significant logistical problems you need to solve before the whole driverless taxi ecosystem can actually work effectively and efficiently. Investors in this space need to be thinking about all the variables at play and be one step ahead since the opportunity is potentially massive.


What do our readers think about the picture we’ve painted here of what a future driverless taxi company might look like? Do you have anything you’d like to add?


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  1. Since aerodynamics are not a concern in cities which is where most taxis operate, why shouldn’t a taxi be crafted for the passenger’s comfort and ease of entry? For example, a rider calls up a taxi. This person has coat, case(s), children and shopping bags in both hands. Currently, a passenger is required to duck down, way down in some models, to get into the car – and somehow bring on board and stow their burdens – quickly.
    Why not take a leaf out of the old London taxis which are high enough to allow a passenger to embark with the minimum of contortions. Secondly, there should be plenty of space to stow safely and conveniently all the paraphernalia people carry with them – in front of them would be the best, on the floor and in a sturdy bin somewhere. Also, consider the inconvenience to people with canes, walkers, baby strollers. If the world wants to get rid of private vehicles, then the alternatives should be an improvement and at least as convenient as our private automobiles (which are not all that convenient, really). Otherwise, the concept will not work.