For many years, the focus has been specifically on self-driving cars and their impact on private individuals, as well as the role they could play for companies such as Uber and Lyft. That said, self-driving vehicles, such as buses, shuttles, or pods, could also have a big impact on public transport and moving around large groups, small groups, or even individual people.
Here's a quick look at each of these vehicles and their potential benefits for public transit.
Self-driving pods range in size from being slightly larger than a wheelchair to large enough for four people to sit comfortably. These vehicles will handle everything from helping those with a disability inside buildings, to transporting people around parks and other public spaces, and transporting people over longer distances.
The smaller pods are easily distinguishable from cars due to their appearance and functionality, but what about the larger ones?
While it may be tempting to call these larger pods cars, many of them differ dramatically in design. Yes, they have four wheels and an exterior that may appear car-like, but the interior is quite a shift away from a traditional car design. For a start, some of the concepts that have been displayed, such as the Volkswagen Group's GEN.TRAVEL, don't have a steering wheel. Other differences include the much larger seats that can convert into beds, or even an interior with two pairs of seats facing each other and a table in the middle. This would allow someone to sleep or even have a meeting while the pod drives you to your destination.
Ultimately, these new pods could fill a much-needed gap in various parts of society.
Many companies around the world are focused on producing a range of self-driving cars. From sedans such as the Tesla Model S, to SUVs like the Jaguar I-PACE used by Waymo, there is a huge range of electric self-driving cars that are being released to cater to the tastes of drivers all around the world.
While there's obviously much interest from the wealthy in personally owning a self-driving car (such as these wealthy soccer players who own expensive cars) to get them from place to place, even regular people who can't afford private jets and mansions may soon be able to enjoy the benefits of self-driving cars. This is because transportation companies such as Uber and Lyft see a future in which you are able to easily request an automated car, any time of day or night, to get you to your destination. Whether you're heading home after a late night with your friends, or need to get to the airport for an early flight, you could request a self-driving car without being too concerned about the driver's state of mind.
This reality may not be far off. Lyft offered self-driving cars in 2022, and Uber partnered with Alphabet's Waymo to bring driverless rides to app users in 2023. It's only a matter of time before these driverless cars become the norm for these transportation companies.