top of page


Robo-Taxis & Robo-Shuttle Companies

Self-driving taxis or driverless taxis, which are called Robotaxis, are autonomous cars hired for ridesharing companies.

The process of eliminating the human driver of taxis can decrease the operational costs to a great extent and make it an affordable journey for the costumers, adding to the extension speed of Mobility as a Service solutions in competence with private car ownership. This will however exacerbate the unemployment affair in societies. [1]

A great deal of research suggest that the emergence of robotaxis in an Autonomous Mobility on Demand (AMoD) service is among the most rapidly grown applications of AVs at large scale and an ultimate solution to major mobility issues in the very near future, especially in metropolises, facilitating the majority of vehicles in the USA within the first decade of their appearance.[2]

They could also be beneficial for increasing roads safety, relieving traffic congestion and improving parking condition.[3] Pollution and fuel consumption and other related issues, has led robotaxis to play a significant role as such services will most probably take advantage of electric vehicles and for most of the rides, less fleet size and range is needed compared to ordinary, privately owned vehicles.[4] The potential decrease in the number of vehicles[5] causes less produced emission but energy consumption for redistribution of empty vehicles cannot be taken for granted.[6]

Currently, several companies are testing robotaxi services, mostly in Asia and in the US. In most cases, there are human driver or safety drivers in the test cars to take control back in case of emergency.

In August 2016, MIT spinoff NuTonomy was the first company to introduce robotaxis to the public, starting to offer rides with in a limited area in Singapore [7].

In August 2017, Cruise Automation, a self-driving startup acquired by General Motors in 2016, established the beta version of a robotaxi service for its employees in San Francisco [8].

In September 2016, Uber started to a select group of users in Pittsburgh to order robotaxis from Ford Fusions [9]. In March 2017, one of Uber’s robotaxis crashed in self-driving mode in Arizona, which led the company to suspend all experiments before resuming them a few days later [10].

In early 2017, Waymo, the Google self-driving car project which became an independent company in 2016, launched a large public robotaxi test in Phoenix using 100 and then 500 more Hybrid minivans provided by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Waymo also signed a deal with Lyft to collaborate on self-driving taxis in May 2017 [11].

Tesla, Inc. announced a plan to establish a robo-taxi service by 2020. "I feel very confident predicting autonomous robo-taxi for Tesla next year. Not in all jurisdictions, because we won't have regulatory approval everywhere, but I'm confident we'll have at least regulatory approvals somewhere, literally next year," said Elon Musk in April 2019. However, there were no active Tesla robo-taxis at the close of 2020 [12].

In the announcement, Elon Musk expected that car owners would be able to add or subtract their car from the network. Adding the car to the fleet would be done by selecting "Commit your car to the fleet", and can then be removed by selecting a "Summon Tesla" option. In places where there are not enough cars shared by car owners, Tesla will assign its own vehicles.

Based on many of the manufacturers' statements, they are going to develop robotaxis before 2025. Also, to reach this goal, several contracts have been signed between manufacturers, technology providers and service operators. Some information about these partnerships can be find as follow:

Tesla also has a plan to develop a ride-hailing smartphone app for robotaxis. "Next year for sure, we will have over a million robotaxis on the road," said Musk on October 21, 2019. "The fleet wakes up with an over-the-air update. That's all it takes." Based on the disclosed information, this application can help both taxi owners and passengers. Taxi owners can schedule days and time blocks for which their car is available and passengers can search for a nearby robotaxi. Therefore, taxi drivers can stay home and watch television while their car taking passengers.

Consequently, passengers also don't need to be in a car with a stranger driver. However, as he has mentioned several times, Musk has not always had the best grasp of timelines. For instance, Tesla's Model X launched two years after the announced year. Also, he has said that Tesla would conduct a hands-free trip across the US by late 2017 which has not been happened yet. By standing on the recent facts, it is normal that not one robotaxi is available now. On the other hand, all of these statements are acceptable from a marketing perspective. Musk's fans love him. It is undeniable that Tesla has good advanced driver-assistance systems, no matter if the roads are not ready or Tesla is not qualified for a broad rollout of level 5 vehicles [13].

Japan had a plan to run robotaxi service for the 2020 Olympic Games in cooperation with Robot Taxi company which contains DeNA and ZMP as its investors. However, this project seems to postpone to the next year due to the Covid-19 Pandemic situation; [14] The Zoox startup has defined its ambitious plans about creating a robotaxi in 2015.

The recent progress of companies such as AutoX and Waymo is telling us that autonomous cars are going to become the norm in the near future. However, the exact time still is not clear. The Covid-19 Pandemic has had serious effects on different industries and delay is irrefutable. Despite all the destructive effects of the pandemic, it showed that how serious the world needs autonomous cars. The new interaction ways of people and the need for contactless rides and deliveries alongside safety and accessibility have put autonomous cars into the spotlight. The automotive startups are hardly working to develop new technologies and provide these needs. Based on all these facts it can be expected that autonomous cars have a bright future.

Glen De Vos, Aptiv chief technology officer, announced that although autonomous cars are almost ready, consumers should not think that they can find one of these cars in a local market quite yet. De Vos announced that robotaxis expect to appear in 2023. However, self-driving cars will not be available until 2030 because of the high price. An ordinary self-driving car price is about $80,000 which is too high. In this case, self-driving car prices need to come down before the distribution of cars in different markets for ordinary consumers [15].


[1] Constine, Josh. "Jobless in the self-driving economy | TechCrunch". Retrieved 2017-08-24.

[2] Gauging the disruptive power of robo-taxis in autonomous driving". McKinsey & Company. Retrieved 2017-12-01.

[3] "Ten ways autonomous driving could redefine the automotive world". McKinsey & Company. Retrieved 2017-08-24.

[4] Buschbacher, Harald (2018-04-16). "2-wheel personal rapid transit: Self-driving vehicles for maximum sustainability" (PDF). Proceedings of 7th Transport Research Arena TRA 2018. doi:10.5281/zenodo.1441105.

[5] Spieser, Kevin; Treleaven, Kyle; Zhang, Rick; Frazzoli, Emilio; Morton, Daniel; Pavone, Marco (2014). "Toward a Systematic Approach to the Design and Evaluation of Automated Mobility-on-Demand Systems: A Case Study in Singapore". Road Vehicle Automation. Lecture Notes in Mobility. Springer, Cham. pp. 229–245. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-05990-7_20. hdl:1721.1/82904. ISBN 9783319059891.

[6] Taiebat; Brown; Safford; Qu; Xu (2018). "A Review on Energy, Environmental, and Sustainability Implications of Connected and Automated Vehicles". Environmental Science & Technology. 52 (20): 11449–11465. arXiv:1901.10581. doi:10.1021/acs.est.8b00127. PMID 30192527.

[7] Vincent, James (2016-08-25). "World's first self-driving taxi trial begins in Singapore". The Verge. Retrieved 2017-08-24.

[9] Brewster, Signe. "Uber starts self-driving car pickups in Pittsburgh | TechCrunch". Retrieved 2017-08-24.

[10] "Uber Self-Driving Car Tests Resume Three Days After Crash". 2017-03-27. Retrieved 2017-08-24.

[11] Isaac, Mike (2017-05-14). "Lyft and Waymo Reach Deal to Collaborate on Self-Driving Cars". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-08-24.

[12] "Elon Musk says Tesla will have robo-taxis operating next year". CNN. Retrieved 2019-11-28.Shaw, Kristin V

[15] Carey, Nick. "Aptiv unveils new self-driving platform with wireless upgrades". Reuters. Retrieved 2021-01-11.


bottom of page