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Won't self-driving cars only make the problem worse?

Many people use Uber because they don't want to drive when they go out, but if their car can drive itself, why bother with Uber?




In a world where self-driving capabilities are in almost every car, car ownership will be vastly reduced. Most trips will happen through some variety of Uber. The exceptions will be people who need to store things in their car like car seats or work equipment.


Where exactly does Uber get the cars for this? Are they just going to maintain all of this, then they're literally a robot taxi company and I have no idea why that is so much more lucrative than being a human taxi company, especially given that urban traffic is probably not going to be fully autonomous for a long, long time.

what stops anybody from spinning up a p2p solution for car sharing that cuts out Uber?


Yeah, they (or someone who replaces them) are a robot taxi company. They own and operate a large fleet so their costs of acquisition and maintenance are much lower than a P2P solution.


if that's actually the plan then the next question is what the differentation is. Everybody can buy robot cars (and probably will), and they'll all compete themselves to death as they already do.

The problem is that there's no significant economies of scale to the taxi industry. You don't make drivers much more efficient by having more of them, and there's an induced demand problem where the limitations of cities and traffic mean that you just cannot scale up to infinity.

This is by the way why there's no enormous single individual taxi company in the existing market. Taxi business tends to be small and competitive for this very reason. It's an extremely ill suited environment for a technology startup.


Absolutely agree. I don't buy this whole 'Robot cars' will make Uber / Grab / Lyft profitable stuff.

If self-driving tech really becomes so good that it will make tons of money, then why let Uber etc have that market? There is zero that differentiates them. Everyone can put a booking app together and optimise it over a few years (see the many international copy cats who have done just that).

Then why wouldn't a self-driving-manufacturing leader (whoever that will be, Tesla, GM, BNW, a Geely or other Chinese player, doesn't matter) run fleets themselves? It's not like there's much human cost involved. (and manufacturers already got their service networks and charging networks together where self driving vehicles could go at night to be charged/serviced)


I'm guessing not a manufacturer. They haven't historically wanted to get into fleet management beyond some side investments. But the rental car companies (both long-term and short-term) seem likely players as soon as self-driving is reliable off-the-shelf tech. Which I expect to be a long while in the areas dense enough for taxi services to work well.


So you're saying my car will become vastly more powerful, and therefore I won't buy one? What? Is that how it worked with, say, cellphones? Or automobiles, for that matter? When automobiles became vastly better quality and more useful, people bought fewer of them?


> In a world where self-driving capabilities are in almost every car, car ownership will be vastly reduced.

We'll see how it plays out, but I don't think that's true. Maybe it's what Uber wants, but I think car companies and consumers will disagree.


It isn't going to be a immediate and simple switch with everyone suddenly having self-driving tech at their fingertips. It will come into the market slowly and very likely at the top of the market. There are going to be plenty of people who simply can't afford to purchase a new self-driving car but would be happy to use one through a ride-sharing app.

In the long term, self-driving decrease the need for even owning a car. Why make that huge investment when a car can always be available to you within minutes with a few clicks in an app? It then would make more sense for those large investments to be made centrally by the Ubers, Lyfts, Waymos, Teslas, Apples, etc of the world. In the distant future I would bet driving eventually ends up like flying is today with only the ultra-affluent and hobbyist owning their own vehicles and everyone else just paying per use.


Pretty sure Uber and friends will lobby lawmakers on why private ownership of self driving vehicles isn't safe. Forced maintenance and computer updates, proprietary car-to-car comms, etc.


Private car ownership is less of a threat. Currently connects many drivers with many riders. A competitor has reach critical mass one both sides. Getting rid of drivers would significantly weaken the current leaders network effect and thus make it a lot easier for competition. Windows mobile might still be alive if their app store wouldn't have been a wasteland :(

Uber could still lobby against competition, but that's a whole different level and we'd be pretty much back at a classical taxi situation.


Every single major car company is working on this tech. There is no way they can keep it to themselves. Plus put aside private ownership, those car companies will just become other Uber and Lyft competitors.


Maybe:

- You don't have a self driving car.

- You don't have a car, period.

- You're stranded somewhere or don't have your car with you.

- You don't want to deal with parking.


I didn't say nobody would use it, I'm just saying a large portion of people using Uber wouldn't need it if they had a self driving car of their own.

Also, with a self-driving car the driver doesn't have to deal with parking because the car can take care of it.


Why buy a 10-100k car when you can pay the incrementally per use?

You pay per use with AWS instead of buying physical servers right?


AWS is extraordinarily expensive when it comes to bandwidth pricing. The same could be applied to a car - it depends on your use case. Do you haul goods? Go in the mountains? Live out of a major city with poorly mapped roads?


Conversely, bulk buying saves money -- you buy toilet paper and paper towels in bulk, buy a bag of 20 lbs of rice instead of 2 lbs at a time, etc.

So it probably depends on the individual's financial situation and where a car ride falls in terms of buying bulk vs incrementally.

A lot of the expense about physical servers is also the maintenance and having employees' time to manage them. A car requires some maintenance but arguably less so than that, so perhaps not the closest comparison.


> Why buy a 10-100k car when you can pay the incrementally per use?

Because it's cheaper over the long run.


Not if you have access to public transit but need "last mile" support.


Uber is an alternative not just to driving but to owning a car. Why bother owning a car when you can just uber?


If I wanted to use Uber to commute to work five days a week, the average ride even with UberPool would be around $19 one way. Assuming I go somewhere else that's of comparable cost just once a week (in practice, I tend to go out for dinner several times a week and go fairly long distances on weekends, but never mind), that's 26 days a month spending ~$37 per day, for nearly $1000 a month. My car payments, insurance, and fuel per month are almost certainly hundreds less than that.

"Why own a car when you can just Uber" makes sense for people who live in areas where they don't have to (and don't want to) drive very much, but I think the assumption that most people fall into that group is pretty shaky. I think it's probable this will change over time, but that time span is almost certainly going to be decades, not a few years.


a very San Francisco way of thinking which would already break down in LA, let alone other places with long driving distances and lower parking costs than SF (and hence a wayyyyyy different value proposition between owning a car and ubering)




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