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The future is now: Robot taxis are coming to Germany

The future is now: Robot taxis are coming to Germany

The future is now: Robot taxis are coming to Germany

Robot taxis are coming to Germany! A test fleet of autonomous taxis is being prepared to start driving in Munich next year, although so far, the plans have proved controversial.

Self-driving taxis to hit German streets next year

A project hailed as the first of its kind is set to commence in Germany next year. Munich-based international mobility company, Sixt, will launch a fleet of self-driving robot taxis with the Israeli autonomous driving technology company, Mobileye. Chinese manufacturer Nio will supply the basic vehicles, which will be fitted with cameras, radar and lidar by the Israeli company.

The taxis will initially be tested in the greater Munich area and will enter regular operation after the testing phase, making them the first of their kind on German streets. They are considered “ride-hailing” taxis, as journeys will be booked via Sixt’s app.

Competition for Sixt’s robot taxis?

Despite Sixt’s robotic taxis being hailed as the first of their kind, competition is already brewing elsewhere in the federal republic. In Hamburg, VW wants to launch their own commercial taxi service, with ride-pooling instead of ride-hailing. Essentially, VW hopes to create a shared taxi service.

VW already have experience in the ride-sharing business through the MOIA ride-sharing service. MOIA will operate VW’s autonomous shared-taxi service, which will feature an automated variant of the company’s ID.Buzz electric bus. The taxis will be fitted with automatic driving hardware and software developed by Argo AI, an autonomous driving company based in the US. Preparations for VW’s taxis are underway and once they have been completed, testing will begin on public roads with a safety driver.

A controversial project

Driverless taxis offer a number of benefits, not just for consumers but for operators as well. Since they can function without a driver, they can operate continuously, without having to pay attention to labour law limits governing maximum working hours and breaks, for instance. They also save money on wages. However, it could also lead to an exodus of workers from the industry, as regular taxi drivers cannot continue to compete with lower and lower fares.

There has also been some debate on how driverless taxis might affect traffic in German cities. Jochen Lohmiller from German transportation software company PTV calculated that drivers would actually lose time when the autonomous ROboMObil hit the streets of Cologne.

Lohmiller calculated that the length of queues would increase, as would the number of stops. The average speed on the roads, however, would decrease, as autonomous vehicles are programmed to stick stringently to traffic rules. Human drivers, on the other hand, take more risks while driving, like speeding, not maintaining the required distance at all times and rushing to make it over traffic lights.

Researchers also suggest that environmental problems may also arise from the continued use of autonomous driving technology. While autonomous vehicles do save a considerable amount of energy compared to traditional cars, increased traffic speeds and the weight of the extra technology could lead to an increase in energy consumption.

William Nehra

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William Nehra

William studied a masters in Classics at the University of Amsterdam. He is a big fan of Ancient History and football, particularly his beloved Watford FC.

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