When I first heard of self-driving vehicles, my gut reaction was it would only work in a limited, geo-fenced kind of way. But if the technology can prove versatile and wide-ranging, which seems more and more likely, the potential applications are all the greater. The implications for the chauffeured transportation industry are obvious.
Fewer chauffeurs = Lower labor costs. And that means an industry plagued by frivolous chauffeur wage and gratuity lawsuits in recent years could lower its risks by getting rid of some chauffeurs. After all, if the U.S. military can pilot drones via computer, then chauffeured transportation operators can steer at least some of their vehicles remotely, so to speak, or monitor the self-driving technology.
Grocery stores, Wal-Mart and Home Depot have caught on to the general concept with self-checkout stations, but with mixed results. The answer simply may be to offer both. In the case of grocery stores in California, why pay a cashier union level wages and benefits and risk a costly strike when you can replace such high maintenance people with cheaper, faster technology that, while impersonal, is never in a bad mood?
Of course, chauffeured transportation companies of the future will still need a tier of chauffeurs for those clients who prefer the hands-on, luxury humanized service. People will always naturally seek a human touch. But look for an increasingly connected and distracted younger tech-savvy clientele to want the most efficient way available: A safe, direct ride from home to plane, via self-driving cars and self-serve airport check-in kiosks. Now if technology could just end-run the TSA agents barking orders and eyeballing plastic toiletry bags. . .
Technology generally leads to better business productivity. For the limousine industry, a technology advance that undercuts unions, labor regulators and predatory trial attorneys all at once is what I call true social justice. — Martin Romjue, LCT editor
Separating hype from human reality will challenge even the smartest driverless technology experts.
The more casual and coarse society gets, the more chauffeured service can gleam with a counter-couture-culture.
As the dates for autonomous milestones move up, motorists retain a healthy skepticism of self-driving vehicles.
Opposite sides rage against the ride app machine: When do you consider an app legit?
What happens when the big buses are chauffeured, while more sedans to the airport are driven?