Google’s driverless car project Waymo recently announced a partnership with Lyft to bring driverless ride-sharing to fruition. And as we all know, Uber is also developing driverless cars, so this partnership further intensifies its rivalry with the other two companies.
Despite the fact Uber has been having some hiccups with its autonomous vehicles and is in the middle of a contentious lawsuit with Waymo, if they win, they could still be first to bring driverless cars to the general public.
Everyone always assumes Google will be at the forefront of innovation, but when it comes to driverless ride-sharing, they’re mistaken. Autonomous vehicle technology is already here, so perfecting it is not the issue holding driverless cars back from ubiquity. And, Uber has a leg up on Waymo and Lyft on the real roadblock to widespread driverless cars: local policy.
Uber has already led the charge in policy changes to make ridesharing more available in cities all over the world. With that influence, Uber can work faster to encourage the enactment of legislative changes in favor of autonomous ride-sharing as well.
What could hold Uber back
Uber has successfully changed policy all over the world, but as they’ve done so, they’ve created antagonistic relationships. Most recently, they had a falling out with Pittsburgh over unmet expectations of free rides, new jobs and federal grant support.
Uber’s notoriously libertarian CEO has been the driving force behind their policy initiatives, demolishing regulations across the globe. But it takes more than that. Driverless car adoption requires consensus-building and mass cooperation. Europe is already embracing this, immediately pursuing autonomous vehicles as their source of public transportation.
It comes down to this: Uber has great connections, but if they can’t cooperate with the other key players in this space, they could squander their chances of driverless car success.
What will happen as transportation moves to driverless cars
We’ve talked before about the changes we’ll see once driverless cars are ready for public use:
- Driverless cars will become widely available with rider costs comparable to public transportation.
- There will be more cars on the road, but travel will be more efficient and travel times will be shorter.
- People will no longer own their own cars and will instead have access to a network of driverless cars to take them exactly where they need to go.
And with the right strategy, Uber is uniquely positioned to help implement legislation and policy that will make it all happen sooner than you realize.
Why it matters
Widespread autonomous transportation is where we’re inevitably going as a society, and the sooner we get there, the better off we’ll all be. As we highlighted in our previous post about driverless cars, the shift to autonomous vehicles will benefit CRE professionals in two key ways; there will be new opportunities with the redevelopment of now auto-focused properties and broadened networks of sales prospects.
More importantly, if companies like Uber put their effort toward policy allowing driverless cars onto our streets, we’ll all be safer. Consider the number of people in the US who die in drunk driving accidents every day: 28. And that’s just one element of human error that will be eradicated with driverless cars. If we implement driverless cars just one year sooner than we would have without a larger policy push, there are at least 10,000 people whose lives could be saved.
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