“AI in transportation will no doubt revolutionize safety and efficiency of the urban transit system,” said Cheng Wei, CEO of DiDi Chuxing who started trials for driverless taxis in Shanghai-China, offering free trips to users who are prepared to trust the AI-powered machines.
In an effort to get the general public used to driverless taxis and cars in their cities and towns, the company geofenced the trials on driverless cars to downtown Shanghai, but is making a commitment to the future of transport across the country. The vision is that such innovation becomes mainstream.
In addition, users who have registered can use their smartphone to order a self-driving taxi. According to reports, this can only be possible as long as their points of departure and arrival are within the 53.6-km designated roads in Shanghai’s Jiading District.
On-board, mandatory safety drivers will still be present for emergency response, but AI technology will primarily operate the vehicles. The drivers will be able to take over the steering wheel when required, as well as a safety centre for monitoring the vehicle’s operational status and provide remote assistance when necessary.
Bo Zhang, Cofounder and Chief Technology Officer of Didi, said “The company will start by assigning orders to both human and robotic drivers as autonomous vehicles can only work in certain areas.
“Autonomous driving needs to move beyond being a novel but limited experience and become a reliable and efficient daily mobility option for the general public in a highly complex world,” Zhang said.
The benefits of self-driving vehicles are huge: significant reduction of road accidents, deaths and injuries. From the perspective of businesses, this advancing transport technology will cut labor costs and diminish burden rate of employees. However, the challenge many companies face is that the public perception of autonomous vehicles is negative. On the quest for innovation, there are always setbacks. One such incident was Uber’s fatal self-driving car accident in March 2018, which damaged public opinion. It is therefore important to have companies educate communities on how this form of technology can actually make roads safer in the long-term.