Disruption in mobility : Transportation as a service

Oinam Nabakishore Singh *

What is Uber or any other taxi or ride hailing service provider? Wikipedia describes Uber as a transportation network company. Its platforms can be accessed via its websites and mobile apps.

There are many other ride hailing apps and service providers like Ola Cabs, Meru Cabs, etc. These apps and services are constantly changing the way we use taxis for transportation and they are seriously affecting the traditional taxi hailing process and cost of transportation.

Although I have heard of taxi hailing by using mobile phone apps like Uber and Ola, I had never used the app to hail a taxi for a ride. In my last visit to Delhi, I booked a Meru taxi at the airport in Delhi to take me to my destination at Hudco Place, Andrews Ganj by paying a sum of Rs. 600.00.

The travel time was around 4 pm. On my return trip, I hailed an Uber Taxi to travel to the same airport around 8 am and I paid only Rs.300.00. The difference in taxi fare between hailing taxi by using app and fixed booking was almost 100 percent.

It is also learnt that there are different taxi fares for different time slabs in the day in order to adjust the cost or price to demand, and passing the benefits of lower cost to the passenger.Then why not use the service of Uber or Ola instead of using fixed booking taxi.

Since the challenge of Uber and Ola in metropolitan cities are intense and pervasive, many taxi operators are now feeling the heat. Many other individuals and fleet owners have no option other than being a part of taxing hailing services like Uber and Ola in order to remain in the market.

Advantage of using the Uber or Ola app includes capturing of data of passenger, his mobile phone, email id, details of the vehicle used as taxi, name of the driver, time of travel, route followed, fare charged, etc. in the database of Uber or Ola. There is complete transparency about the fare to be paid as the same is calculated at the end of the journey.

GPS navigation is used by the driver through smart phones. The passengers feel much safer and confident about the route and fare. Thetaxi driver is also under constant tracking by the Uber at the control room.

Another advantage of using Uber or Ola app is sharing of ride with others and consequently paying less fare for the travel. It is like carpooling. The fare of ride by Uber is so low that one ponders whether it is worth driving one’s own car to reach a destination when one has to buy fuel, maintain the vehicle and have the tension of driving. Gradually, there will a trend of not owning a car.

A major disruptionin transportation will take place when autonomous vehicles are used as taxis.An autonomous vehicle will not have a driver and there will be no steering wheel. It can drive on its own as per instruction from the passenger or instructions from its platform or control room.

It is fitted with a number of devices to detect the traffic, obstacles and road by using radar, cameras, laser and a computer, which is the brain of the vehicle. In an autonomous vehicle, a computer takes over the vehicle in all respect of its operation.

After issue of instructions and by using GPS, etc., an autonomous vehicle will take the passenger quickly and effectively to the destination. Because of the absence of human error, there will be less accidents on the road and less casualty.

What are the impacts of autonomous vehicles? The first one is that the drivers of all kinds of vehicles will lose their jobs. Such drivers will have to be retrained for other jobs. Individual vehicle ownership, being expensive, will decrease and fleet operators of taxis will provide transportation services on demand at any time and place. Manufacturing of vehicles will be under pressure.

Just as Uber taxis are available in areas proximate to the demand pockets, autonomous vehicles will be waiting for command in nearby places. Hailing of such vehicles can be by using technology, most probably on smartphones.

Since such vehicles are on the street all the time, they donot require parking space or garage. It will lead to freeing the parking space and using them for some other purposes-creation of additional space and therefor, asset.

A major consequence of autonomous vehicle will be threat to the network of automobile dealerships, whose vehicle sales will plummet as many will opt not to own vehicles. Sales will drop as individual owning of vehicle will not be required.

Autonomous taxis available anytime and anywhere to provide transport service at a much lesser cost (cost of driver deducted) will become the means of transport and causing a huge disruption in automobile industry.

Another disruption waiting to happen is the shift to Electric Vehicles(EV) sooner than later. The launch of Tesla Model 3, an electric car of mass production, in USA recently heralded the quick adoption of lithium-ion battery powered Electric Vehicles. EVs will not require fossil fuels and there will be no pollution from vehicular emission.

With complete switchover to EVs, oil industry comprising of upstream exploration and production, downstream refining and marketing will face closure. With decreasing demand of oil and gas, oil producing countries will have to look for alternative sources of revenue.

Electric Vehicles will require much less maintenance as the number of moving parts in an EV is about 20 against about 2000 in an internal combustion engine. The revenue of the vehicle workshops will decline as there will be lesser visits.

Technology is constantly affecting the way we live, work and travel. Many people employed in the automobile industry will have to find new jobs as technology will displace them. An imaginative solution should be found to adjust to the fast-changing environment. Sooner we realize the change and adapt, the better.

Views expressed are personal

* Oinam Nabakishore Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on May 03 2019.

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