No matter which car hire firm PCO drivers are working with, whether it is Uber or a local competitor, there is a technology-driven issue that cannot be ignored, and that is the driverless car. A look at any technology news site will see regular articles about the self-driving car, but what does that mean for a PCO driver?
The first thing to look at is what these self-driving cars can do. At the moment the reality of self-drive is following the lane markings on a motorway and is championed primarily by Tesla, with Volvo introducing similar technology in its latest models.
For the PCO industry, this doesn’t really change anything. Such features are not going to change the need for car hire services at all. However, while this is true of what we can buy today, technology has a habit of changing things very rapidly, so what is in the future that could make a difference to the PCO industry?
Tesla and several others, including Google and even Uber itself, are hard at work, spending vast amounts of money, developing completely autonomous cars. That is cars that require no input other than being told the destination. After that, they drive themselves completely with no help from a driver.
For a PCO driver, that sounds like a nightmare, indeed for the entire PCO industry, but what does it really mean? We are still a long way from having such cars taking over the car hire industry, current tests all require a qualified driver sat in the driver’s seat, and even when, because it is definitely when, not if, these driverless cars are perfected, it will require a change in legislation to make them legal for road use, let alone car hire use.
That does not mean that we can just ignore these developments though. The PCO industry is itself changing right now, but driverless cars would be much more than that. With Uber spending a lot of money developing their own driverless vehicles, it is clear where they see the future being. The question is, how far away are they, and will they take over the entire car hire industry?
They are a long way off still, even once perfected, the necessary changes in legislation first to allow driverless cars on the roads and then for them to be used commercially will be a long process in itself. The other aspect is will they take over the PCO industry completely? Uber would seem to think so, but is it realistic?
Passengers may not take to the idea, certainly for a while. As driverless cars eventually become reality, as with all technology advances, they will appear at the highest end first. For the majority of people, it will be decades before they are able to own a driverless vehicle even with the perfected technology, and that means it will remain unfamiliar. That leads to the majority of passengers being unfamiliar with it in a car hire scenario as well. In that situation, even when they are operating on the roads, many people will continue to look for the familiarity of their PCO driver.
Long term, driverless cars are probably inevitable, but it is a very long way away, despite what the news likes to tell us.