The researchers found that Manhattan’s 13,000 taxis made 470,000 trips a day. Their average speed was 10 to 11 m.p.h., carrying an average of 1.4 passengers per trip with an average wait time of five minutes.
In comparison, the report said, it is possible for a futuristic robot fleet of 9,000 shared automated vehicles hailed by smartphone to match that capacity with a wait time of less than one minute. Assuming a 15 percent profit, the current cost of taxi service would be about $4 per trip mile, while in contrast, it was estimated, a Manhattan-based driverless vehicle fleet would cost about 50 cents per mile.
The upside of driverless cabs: No more awkward small talk with the mildly racist cabbie who otherwise seems perfectly nice and probably has a lovely family that he can no longer support because highly advanced machine-learning algorithms and visual systems took his job. Downside: If you’re too poor to afford a smartphone, you’re effectively too poor to ride in a totally adorable Google taxi.