A major revolution in passenger and tourist transportation is getting closer and closer to becoming a reality. In the very near future you can expect to see autonomous, self-driving cars and minibuses transporting tourists to interesting sites and attractions.
For some of you this may sound weird or it may seem like a fantasy from the distant future, but one of the biggest changes--or revolutions, really--in chauffeured transportation is getting closer than you may expect. You might have seen it on YouTube: the self-driving or autonomous driving car is already out there and driving around. Don’t confuse this with ‘self drive rental cars’ (a rental car that the renter drives, as opposed to chauffeured car rentals). We're talking about cars, vans, minibuses and, in the near future, large coaches that don’t need a driver anymore. All the driving is done by the systems inside vehicle!
No more drivers who have eaten too many tapas and Spanish sea food and end up dozing behind the wheel. Falling asleep while driving will no longer be a problem. Feeling tired? Go ahead and take a nap. Texting distraction risks? No problem! Answer your email or check your Facebook account while ‘driving’--or actually, just sitting behind the wheel . You can relax, sit back, and enjoy the scenery or work on your computer while your vehicle is driving you safely to your destination and stopping along the way so your group can see all the sights.
Imagine yourself being a travel agent or tour operator and operating in the very price-competitive travel market. You enter a tour to ask for a quote comparison for a coach or minibus with driver hire in the Malaga area on our coach hire platform. Your enter all the trip details for your 8 day Andalusia tour which starts in Malaga and the bus rental quotes come in 2 sets. The first set of quotes is offering you a traditional minibus or luxury coach with a professional driver included to take care of your group transportation needs. The second set of quotes are offering you the new ‘self-driving’ or ‘autonomous driving’ busses. The pricing for the last set of offers doesn’t include a driver. Since the bus itself is doing all the work there is no need for a driver anymore. The route must be defined and entered into the onboard driving computer and perhaps the tour leader would have access rights to adjust the route later.
Not having a driver on your coach means less service for your guests but also a serious cost reduction for you and the coach hire company. Imagine the prices of these autonomous driving rental buses being 50% lower than the traditional chauffeur driven ones. Which option would you choose for your Malaga and Andalusia round tour?
For me, at the present point in time, it would feel strange to get on a bus where there is no driver to control the steering. Would I be comfortable making my life dependent on the proper functioning of a steering computer while travelling through mountainous landscapes or very busy city roads such as the ones around Barcelona or in Madrid? At the moment I would prefer to pay a bit more and have a driver watching over me and taking care of a relaxing trip and safe arrival. I used to think the same thing about travelling by metro, but today the fully automated metro line number 1 in Paris is transporting more than 700,000 passengers a day. No driver involved, no accidents, and passengers feel secure. Machines apparently make less mistakes than humans. In the airline industry it's already common: flying is done by an automated pilot for most of the trip. Maybe it’s just a matter of getting used to a new system.
Please note that automated driving already exists not only for 4-seaters but also for vehicles that transport groups. See the video about a vehicle that transports groups around the campus of the Nanyang Tecnological University in Singapore. The vehicle moves relatively slowly, but that speed will surely increase in the future and for city trips in touristic cities like Seville, Madrid, or Barcelona, a speed of 50 km per hour is already a good speed.
In the early years of car driving several countries had laws obliging the owner of the car have somebody running with a red flag before the car so that people on the streets were warned that a dangerous vehicle was coming. Although we think it’s unlikely that this law will ever come back we are very curious to see how legislation will be adapted to answer this new technology.
So who is responsible and liable when the hired car or coach has no driver? How is guilt or fault established when there is an accident? This way of driving is very new and as happens often with technical innovations legislation and insurance matters still have to catch up to find an answer this new situations. Technically this innovation is ready for implementation. The inventors claim that it will make our roads and driving more safe.
So for those of you who are fleet owners and comercial private transportation operators: can you see yourself as one of the early adopters of this new way of driving? Let's assume that the legal part is solved and the insurance products are adapted and have acceptable pricing. Would you be ready to invest in an autonomous driving fleet of coaches and minibuses for hire? Will it be a bus rental company from the south of Spain or is this innovation more probable to land in a northern city with a bus rental company in Bilbao ormaybe at a private transport company in Barcelona? We're eager to hear your thoughts! Please post them here below in the comment field.