Stories by Raphael Gindrat

Expert Voices

The ride-hailing challenges autonomy can't solve

gray van with Uber and Lyft stickers on the window
A ride-hailing vehicle in New York City. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Ride-hailing companies like Uber, Lyft and China's Didi have dominated the emerging mobility market and are now investing in autonomous technology, which Goldman Sachs projects would accelerate growth and increase profitability by eliminating driver subsidies.

The big picture: Even with AV fleets, however, ride-hailing companies may struggle to improve their bottom lines without addressing other inefficiencies in their business model. The time ride-hailing vehicles spend empty (traveling 2.8 miles for every mile in service) only exacerbates the role they have played in slowing city traffic, by up to 20% in New York and 51% in San Francisco.

Expert Voices

5G investment needs to scale up for AVs to reach full potential

Colorful cell phones with cellular network signals and clouds overhead
Illustration: Sarah Grillo, Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Forthcoming 5G networks are expected to expedite advances in AV technology, but the infrastructural investment required has been estimated at $130 bilion–$150 billion — a significant hurdle that is holding AVs short of their potential and will likely require investment beyond wireless carriers.

The big picture: For AVs to be deployed, they'll need both onboard sensors to make their way through the environment and 5G to talk to one another. But until there's a greater commitment to the technology's rollout, AVs will be developed without the benefits 5G could offer.

Expert Voices

How a central control system could keep AV traffic flowing smoothly

a fleet of cars with superimposed directional arrows
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

For the most part, the hype surrounding AVs has focused on the cars: how safe they are, when they'll arrive, whether they'll work. But less attention has been paid to how these vehicles will work together as fleets — often shared along the model of ride-hailing services — to receive instructions, pick up riders, pool efficiently and get the right people to the right destination at the right time.

Why it matters: If AV makers flood cities with driverless vehicles, they could add to the traffic pressures created by badly managed ride-hailing fleets. Efficient deployment will require vehicles, operators and travelers to communicate in real time to match supply and demand.

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