Robo-taxis: Revolutionising urban mobility

September 2019

We have previously looked at the shift away from car ownership towards mobility as a service, but, thanks to research into new technologies, it now looks as if shared autonomous vehicles — or robo-taxis — could be hitting UK roads as soon as 2021. In this blog we take a look at the recent developments in bringing robo-taxis to the roads and how they are set to revolutionise the way people travel in urban areas.

Autonomous shared vehicles are widely expected to be an integral part of the way that people travel around urban areas in the future, offering a number of benefits for governments and their citizens. For the government, the introduction of driverless shared vehicles can help them meet targets to reduce congestion and pollution, for the customers likely to use the service, it opens up a new way of travelling around that is easy to use and more affordable than owning your own car.
Recent developments
The technology required to operate robo-taxis is very close to being available, with technology companies now working to adapt it for use in driverless vehicles. One of these companies, Continental, has already announced that its driverless technology will be employed for the first time in the production of French company, EasyMile’s EZ10 shuttles, this year. But it does not stop there. Continental currently have five other centres across China, Germany, Japan, Singapore and the U.S. where research is being carried out with the aim of providing safe and efficient robo-taxis for everyone.1

Closer to home, the UK government, recently announced an ambitious driverless transport programme for 2021, which pledges to invest £25 million into autonomous buses in Scotland and robo-taxis in several London boroughs.2 The autonomous buses in Scotland could provide up to 10,000 journeys a week, carrying up to 42 passengers across 14 miles between Fife and Edinburgh. In London, private taxi company, Addison Lee, is already working with self-driving software specialist Oxbotica to digitally map public roads in the capital to enable driverless vehicles. It will receive funding as part of the government initiative to extend its autonomous taxi trials across the borough.
What does this mean for OEMs and insurers?
Although it could be another decade before autonomous transport services are commonplace on the roads, as they become more widespread over the next few years, the amount of people owning cars is expected to decrease, which will have an effect on OEMs. Traditional automotive OEMs will have to adjust to deal with an increasing business-to-business customer base, and be prepared to roll out features required for autonomous driving.

Robo-taxis also throw up a number of potential issues for automotive insurers; including the shift in customer base, from consumers to fleet owners, and concern over who would be liable in the event of an accident involving an autonomous vehicle. With the introduction of the first robo-taxis on to our streets fast-approaching, automotive insurers will have to adapt to meet these and other demands posed by a move away from car ownership towards mobility-as-a-service.