Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Remote Control Taxi

Take the driver out of the cab
  [vote for,

Traditionally, a taxi service has consisted of a form of transport: horse or it's modern equivalent, a 2006 poverty- spec VW passat tdi, and a driver. Web favorites Google have been working on a self-driving car, with the hope that we'd all be free to enjoy a few pints of beer/wine and have the robot drive us home.

Unfortunately, Google hasn't managed to slip this concept past all the tedious legislation designed to inhibit fun things from happening.

However, between self-driving cars and the current situation, lies an opportunity. Using the same basic idea as the Predator flying-death-robots, we have a real human driver remote from the car. Cars nowadays routinely have electric power steering/drive-by-wire throttle etc so the interface should be easy with the right car, additionally, many safety features such as automatic brakes are now becoming standard. The advantages are numerous: you gain an additional seat, the cab is a hundred kilos or so lighter, so it uses less fuel, and the number of cab drivers dying in accidents will fall. The actual human driver should sidestep the regulations nicely, although they still won't like it.

bs0u0155, Nov 29 2013

NYC Cab crashes http://www.nytimes....on/28cabs.html?_r=0
[bs0u0155, Dec 02 2013]

Latency http://www.rcuniver...ements-2-print.html
[bs0u0155, Dec 02 2013]


       Not a bad idea, although it would be costly: to really drive a car safely, you'd need full wrap-around screens (or at least VR goggles), and some system for tactile feedback (bumps in the road; pedestrians bouncing off the bonnet).   

       There'd also be the issue of driving while under the influence - remote drivers would have to be subject to the same breathalyzer test as present drivers.
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 01 2013

       Incidentally, there's an interesting piece of psychology which means that autopilot (or remotely piloted) vehicles will have to be much, much safer than regular cars before they are allowed on the roads.   

       Suppose self-driving cars are 10 times safer than human-driven ones. Hundreds of lives would be saved, but nobody would know *who* those hundreds of people were - nobody is going to say "self-driven cars saved my life". But if 10 people are killed by self-driven cars, there will be 10 sets of relatives howling. It's a very difficult game to win.
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 01 2013

       // folks who prefer to pay cash for a lot of reasons //   

       ... the most obvious one being that they can't afford their own chauffeur-driven vehicle; and as such, who cares what happens to the lower strata ?
8th of 7, Dec 01 2013

       So, in NYC a cab crashes every 4.6 million miles. With 21% involving serious injury <link>. Now, I happened to be in NYC on Saturday and in a thoroughly scientific survey, NYC cabs have an average occupancy of about 1.6 driver included. Sample size about 45, I may have missed one or two went I went to find vinegar for my chips but there you go. Now, that implies around 1 serious injury per 13.75 million miles. With my system that would be 1 serious injury in 36.6 million miles. The remote system can afford to crash more than twice as often and still have fuel/capacity advantages.   

       There's no reason you couldn't pay cash with one of those note-taker things, they're pretty reliable, maybe that's why US money is regularly-sized?   

       What you lose in tyre-changing abilities... you also lose in awkward conversations. So it's not all bad. The cabs can have run-flat tyres to get round the tyre problem anyway.
bs0u0155, Dec 02 2013

       //If you've ever had difficulty getting a crumpled dollar bill into a vending machine//   

       Crappy laundry-card ones yes, but the dollar bill taking things work really well on the buses here in Philly.   

       //which negatively impacts the handling and fuel economy of the vehicle. There are a lot of folks who claim the extra stiffness translates into a less comfortable ride, as well.//   

       Run flats have been routinely fitted to almost all new BMW and Minis for years now. Run flats do have a minor negative effect on the handling, but the typical NYC cab is a 10 year old Ford Crown Victoria with 100k miles on it. If the very apogee of refinement and handling were necessary, then the vehicles would not be crappy old Fords.   

       Drivers are already disconnected from their cars. The accelerator pedal on most new cars is not physically connected to the butterfly valve anymore. Brake feel is modeled in many cars, particularly those fitted with ceramic brakes which were known by racing drivers as feeling either "on or off, no in between". ABS already interrupts the drivers input to improve braking. Electric power steering is in use, with feedback feeling simply a switch away (see the "City" button introduced on Fiat Puntos in the '90s). Many cars even model the sound of the engine through the Stereo, so that the driver can pick how much noise the engine makes by pressing the "Sport" button.   

       The only reason full drive-by wire isn't in use is because of regulatory conservatism, and because mechanical linkages are still a little cheaper.
bs0u0155, Dec 02 2013

       Signal delay isn't an issue. Latency on a 2.4GHz system, like I've used on an FPV RC aircraft is down in the microseconds for a good system <link>. Even if you add all the delays up it's a couple of milliseconds. People use FPV to pilot stunt aircraft around at well over 100mph.   

       Bad weather is an issue, and I agree that seat-of- the-pants is a good way of detecting a slide. However, look at the various traction control systems in Subaru/Land Rover/Nissan GTR etc. By measuring what each individual wheel is doing, throwing in an accelerometer you can detect a slide better than a person, this was v.expensive 10 years ago, it's quickly coming off patent and getting super cheap (standard on a Mazda 6).   

       Some form of slide indicator (try playing Gran Turismo with a force feedback wheel... slides can feel as realistic as you like).   

       If bad weather performance was a priority, there would be more Subarus and fewer Crown Victorias. The new prices are comparable.   

       You should also be able to gain efficiency by having a pool of drivers and slightly more cars. A driver does not need to be present when payment is occurring, or when the Taxi is in a rank. A remote system would enable switching.
bs0u0155, Dec 02 2013

       aaggh, latency is in the 10's of milliseconds. That actually might be unacceptable.
bs0u0155, Dec 02 2013

       " What you lose in tyre-changing abilities... you also lose in awkward conversations. So it's not all bad. "   

       And you could always set up the cash taking device to include an awkward conversation option for an additional dollar or two.   

       Machine: " So, you here for business? "   

       Passenger: "Actually, I'm looking for a wife"   

       Machine: " Y'know, I've got a sister who is looking for somebody"   

       Passenger: " Is she a taxi also ?"   

       Machine: "For an additional $20, I can introduce you to her"
normzone, Dec 06 2013

       Amazon's drone thing will likely boil down this in an isolated road system between Big Rivers main warehouse and Library of Congress.
popbottle, Dec 06 2013


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