I am fully on board with the $80 billion driverless car industry. Last weekend, I was almost creamed by a speeding black Mercedes whose driver ignored the stop sign at Park Lane and Douglas in Old Preston Hollow. (There are four.) Fortunately, I waited and thusly avoided a wreck. I also spent 2 hours on the Dallas North Tollway last week coming south between Frankfort and Keller Springs at about 5 pm. Two hours! Accidents (human error) are what create traffic jams and gridlock, and accidents happen because mortals drive cars. Let technology do it, and the errors will be greatly reduced.
Of course, Wall Street is thinking money. $285 billion:
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. predicts that robo-taxis will help the ride-hailing and -sharing business grow from $5 billion in revenue today to $285 billion by 2030. There are grand hopes for this business. Without drivers, operating margins could be in the 20 percent range, more than twice what carmakers generate right now. If that kind of growth and profit come to pass—very big ifs—it would be almost three times what GM makes in a year. And that doesn’t begin to count the money to be made in delivery.
So I was thrilled to be invited to Frisco on Monday to test-
drive ride in the first self-driving car service in America, a pilot public partnership that will put driverless passenger vans on Frisco roads come July. A California startup called Drive.ai — at HALL Park all this week — will travel between fixed points in an area devoted to retail, entertainment and offices at HALL Park and the Star in Frisco. The pilot program, which will operate on public roads, is slated to run for six months. An expansion is planned to Frisco Station.
A host of Frisco dignitaries and developers and of course Frisco Mayor Jeff Cheney, a Realtor with The Associates, were on hand to celebrate with a press conference and then
driving riding demos. The biggest takeaway: this is a brilliant PR move to not only collect AI data (keep reading, I explain) but to get people more comfortable with the driverless car concept. As TexasMonthly.com pointed out, “Starting in Frisco is likely to give Drive.ai enough data for how suburban North Texas drivers operate that they’ll be able to spread out across the region. That’s no small deal when you’re talking about the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the country, and makes the Frisco test an effective pilot program for how autonomous cars are likely to roll out across North Texas.”
“Today definitely marks a mobility milestone for our entire region, said Jeff. “It also gets us closer to achieving one of our council’s ‘Top Ten’ goals, which is to improve traffic throughout Frisco, one of the fastest growing cities in the country.”
Drive.ai is headquartered in Mountain View, Ca. in Silicon Valley. The company has raised more than $60 million, has more than 100 employees, and was founded by graduate students out of Stanford University’s Artificial Intelligence Lab. Andrew Ng, who spoke at the presser, said he studied at Carnegie Mellon, which is where a lot of driverless car talent has been hatched.
“We are ready to work with governments and businesses to solve their transportation needs,” Sameep Tandon, co-founder and CEO of Drive.ai., said in a press release. “Working with the city of Frisco and Frisco Transportation Management Association, this pilot program will take people to the places they want to go and transform the way they experience transportation.”
The service works through a smartphone application that lets users hail complimentary, on-demand rides, just as you would an Uber. The big convenience will be for lunch patrons who don’t want to get in their car and park. I’d like to see them try one out from say, Valley View Mall to Legacy.
I have so many questions, and I got some answers.