Autonomous taxis: ‘Mixed Messages’ on US$470bn Market Readiness

Over the last three to four years, the driverless robotaxi industry has begun to flourish. Driverless services are coming online in multiple cities across the US and China. IDTechEx‘s recent report, “Future Automotive Technologies 2024-2034: Applications, Megatrends, Forecasts“, predicts that the driverless robotaxi industry will be generating over US$470 billion annually through services in 2034.

This is certainly supported by the driverless data coming out of California DMV, which shows another year of more miles driven, by more vehicles on the road, and more distance between disengagements. However, there are two sides to every story, and the news coming out of San Francisco suggests that not everything is getting better, says

There has always been some controversy over autonomous car testing in San Francisco and across California. They have seen pushback from taxi drivers and ride-share drivers, with the new technology posing a threat to their livelihoods. However, the biggest worry when it comes to the deployment of driverless autonomous services is their safety.

Over the course of robotaxi testing in California, there have been several small and perhaps even silly incidents involving these vehicles. For example, on the 21 March 2023, a Cruise vehicle went through the caution tape of a closed intersection where there was a downed telegraph pole, which the Cruise vehicle then hit. But, on the 2 October 2023, an incident sparked a deeper sense of concern. A pedestrian was hit by a human-driven Nissan, which launched her into the path of a Cruise vehicle. The Cruise vehicle failed to stop in time and, while attempting to pull over, dragged the pedestrian 20ft before stopping with a wheel on her leg, causing serious injury. Following the incident, Cruise’s driver-out testing and robotaxi service permissions were revoked by California DMV. Rivals Waymo were still able to operate but has recently had challenges of its own.

In Feb 2024, a Waymo vehicle had a collision with a cyclist, causing minor injuries. This happened as the cyclist was obstructed from the Waymo’s view by a truck. The cyclist emerged into the path of the Waymo, which braked heavily as soon as the cyclist became visible but was unable to avoid a collision. The cyclist suffered minor injuries but didn’t need to be taken to hospital and was able to leave the scene on their own.

(Pic – Waymo Press Library)


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