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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
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
NYC Cab crashes
[bs0u0155, Dec 02 2013]
[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.
||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
||// 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 ?
||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
||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.
||//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
||//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.
||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.
||aaggh, latency is in the 10's of milliseconds. That
actually might be unacceptable.
||" 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"
||Amazon's drone thing will likely boil down this in an isolated road system between Big Rivers main warehouse and Library of Congress.