Driverless taxis are coming to the London in 2021

Fleets of driverless taxis will be ferrying people around London in less than three years.

And the company coming out with the service first isn’t Uber, or Google or even Tesla. No. It’s private-hire taxi company Addison Lee.

From Tech Crunch:

After undertaking a year-long investigation with Ford and four other mobility specialists on how to build self-driving systems that integrate with London’s existing transport infrastructure, Addison Lee today is announcing the next step in its autonomous strategy.

The on-demand ride company — which competes with black cabs, Uber and other car services — announced a deal with self-driving startup Oxbotica to develop autonomous vehicles, with the aim of getting them in service in London by 2021.

By teaming up with Oxbotica, which has had permission to trial its driverless cars on real roads since 2016, it seems Addison Lee has made a very smart move.

Not only that, but Oxbotica’s claims its tech can make “any car” driverless. That means Addison Lee won’t even need to invest in a fleet of extremely expensive driverless cars to get started. It can simply modify the cars it already owns.

I remember a couple of years ago many investors were calling the end of Addison Lee.

It’s easy to see why. It had new competition from Uber and other tech firms undercutting it, and it didn’t have the brand recognition of a black cab to keep it in demand.

A few years on and it looks like it will be Addison Lee beating out all the other firms to launch the first large-scale driverless taxi service in the UK.

Last year, Chancellor Philip Hammond said he wanted to have fully driverless cars in use on UK roads by 2021. It looks like that vision will hold true.

If this scheme goes well we can expect to see an influx of fully driverless car services hitting our streets over the next few years.

That is much, much sooner than most people realise.

Of all the new technology coming our way, I think driverless car services are going to have the most impact on our lives in the next five years or so.

Personally, I can’t wait for the day I can book a driverless car to ferry me around the UK. But I’m sure the move to a driverless society is going to cause a whole lot of anger during the transition period.

Jobs will be lost. Accidents will happen. And outrage will abound.

The results of a survey earlier this year by Money Supermarket are quite telling.

Of the 2,010 adults surveyed about driverless cars:

  • 55% of people said they would miss driving
  • 60% of people said that they would prefer if they had a human taxi driver
  • 41% of people said they wouldn’t know what to do with the extra time
  • 73% said they would not feel safe driving with fully autonomous cars on motorways.

With Addison Lee being first, it will have the chance to gain a huge competitive advantage before other major companies enter the fray.

By the same token, however, it will also bear the brunt of the backlash against this new technology.

It’s certainly a gamble. But I’m glad someone is rolling the dice.

“Urban transport will change beyond recognition in the next 10 years with the introduction of self-driving services, and we intend to be at the very forefront of this change by acting now,” said Andy Boland, the CEO of Addison Lee.

Let’s see if he’s right.

Until next time,

Harry Hamburg
Editor, Exponential Investor

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