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Self-driving 'taxibots' to replace cars?

2015-04-24 10:25

FUTURE SELF-DRIVING CAR: Nasa tests its new battery-powered Modular Robotic Vehicle. Image: Nasa

BERLIN, Germany - Transportation experts say car-congested cities could become a thing of the past, provided people are prepared to ride-share with a robot driver.

A study published Thursday (April 23) by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development suggests that widespread use of "taxibots" could cut by 90% the number of cars needed to perform the same number of journeys per day.

Researchers used data from Lisbon, Portugal, to simulate how such self-driving, communal cabs would affect traffic. Even with only one passenger per ride and no complementary public transport, the number of cars still dropped by 77%.


The authors said replacing personal cars with self-driving cabs would also free valuable real estate currently used for public parking, equivalent to over 200 soccer pitches in Lisbon's case.

Self-driving vehicles hold the key to reducing traffic fatalities and will transform the automobile industry, predicts a  Google executive Ray Kurzweil.

VIDEO: Google's self-driving concept

VIDEO: Nasa's self-driving car in action

Kurzweil, a leading expert in artificial intelligence who joined Google in 2012, told the annual conference of the society of automotive engineers that the rapidly declining cost of computing power and the advances in artificial intelligence will make autonomous driving a reality.

Earlier in 2015, Wheels24 reported that Google is testing its new self-driving car, set to be launched later in 2015.


The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) set its sights on a similar project to Google with the debut of its autonomous Modular Robotic Vehicle (MRV) prototype earlier in April 2015.

The MRV, built at Nasa’s Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas, is the size of a golf cart and is packed with the space agency's latest technology including remote and autonomous control.

Click on the gif below to view the video:

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