Self-driving Taxis Will Become the Most Disgusting Spaces on Earth

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
self driving taxis will become the most disgusting spaces on earth

With the entire automotive industry looking toward a future of driverless mobility, commercially owned self-driving taxis seem poised to be on the frontline of tomorrow. However, nobody seemed to realize that these vehicles will eventually become little more than mobile toilets.

Animals are universally disgusting and humans are no exception. While we’ve mastered land, air, and sea, consider the spaces we occupy while we traverse those expanses. Rental cars are returned filled with candy wrappers, spilt soda, and human hair. Uber vehicles are routinely vomited in. The subway is a haven for disease. Airplane interiors experience havoc within the first hour of a flight as the worst of us begin defecating into the seats, too lazy and weak to control ourselves.

Autonomous taxis aren’t likely to endure better treatment. Without a driver present, the urge to have drunken sex will be far too strong — and those odds only increase when you add a second occupant to the equation. With nobody watching, we’ll leave half-consumed hamburgers and cans of sweetened tea on their floors that will roll around and turn the carpet into a sticky magnet for larger pieces of garbage.

Bloomberg speculates the never-ending process of cleaning other people’s filth will cost large firms with autonomous fleets tens of millions of dollars annually. That number swells into the billions when you account for insurance, maintenance, storage, and the accelerated devaluation of such vehicles.

Uber is desperate to make the switch to driverless vehicles as soon as technology allows it, but abandoning the vehicle’s owner could result in unforeseen costs. Since drivers are responsible for their own cars, Uber’s policy is to force passengers who make a mess to foot the cleaning bill. This often results in drivers paying it themselves, especially when there isn’t a standout vomiting incident allowing for easy finger pointing. However, even when there is, it’s notoriously difficult to actually force someone to pay and often times not worth pursuing.

Other firms, like Avis’ ZipCar, have seen their fleets used and abused to a point where it has become difficult to keep up with the necessary cleaning. Its vehicles are stored in various locations throughout multiple cities and can change hands hourly. Finding someone to routinely assure they’re clean inside is next to impossible.

Traditional rental companies spend anywhere from $100 to $300 per vehicle each month while maintaining their fleet. For hourly rentals, that fee is much less predictable.

General Motors’ Maven arm, which competes with Zipcar and leases vehicles to both Uber and Lyft drivers, has begun studying how much abuse ride-share vehicles take. In addition to the wear, tear, and grime left in the wake of inconsiderate customers, the costs for parking and insurance will be significant — especially in the major metropolitan areas where such services are more popular.

Peter Kosak, GM’s executive director of urban mobility, has said that Maven’s goal is to provide consumers access to a diverse lineup of vehicles while still making sure it feels akin to ownership. That illusion is tainted the second someone finds another person’s greasy fingerprints on the steering wheel. That’s a new problem, one which will proliferate as community cars become more popular.

Lyft’s co-founder John Zimmer recently referred to personal vehicle ownership as “a ball and chain that gets dragged through our daily life.” He believes car ownership will be all but abandoned in major U.S. cities by 2025. While few are willing to plot a timeline quite so ambitious as Zimmer’s, ride-sharing has become more common. However, it won’t become ubiquitous until manufacturers can make the numbers work and drivers/riders can be assured a sanitary experience. Likewise, a plan has to be put in place to keep autonomous vehicles, with nobody to look out for them, from becoming roving toxic waste dumps.

“Lyft and Uber don’t care about managing the fleet,” said Kosak. “Down the road, you’ll need to dictate who does all of that.”

Join the conversation
4 of 40 comments
  • Gedrven Gedrven on Jul 15, 2017

    "Without a driver present, the urge to have drunken sex will be far too strong — and those odds only increase when you add a second occupant to the equation." Gold!

    • See 1 previous
    • -Nate -Nate on Jul 28, 2017

      @la834 You need to be choosier about the passengers them =8-) . -Nate

  • Alff Alff on Aug 03, 2017

    "Airplane interiors experience havoc within the first hour of a flight as the worst of us begin defecating into the seats, too lazy and weak to control ourselves." Please tell me which airlines and routes you fly, so that I may avoid those.

  • MaintenanceCosts We hear endlessly from the usual suspects about the scenarios where EVs don't work as well as gas cars. We never hear the opposite side of the coin. From an EV owner (since 2019) who has a second EV reserved, here are a few points the "I road trip 1000 miles every day" crowd won't tell you about:[list][*]When you have a convenient charging situation, EV fueling is more convenient than a gas car. There is no stopping at gas stations and you start every day with a full tank.[/*][*]Where there are no-idling rules (school pickup/dropoff, lines for ferries or services, city loading, whatever else) you can keep warm or cool to your heart's content in your EV.[/*][*]In the cold, EVs will give you heat from the second you turn them on.[/*][*]EVs don't care one bit if you use them for tons of very short trips. Their mechanicals don't need to boil off condensation. (Just tonight, I used my EV to drive six blocks, because it was 31 degrees and raining, and walking would have been unpleasant.)[/*][*]EVs don't stink and don't make you breathe carcinogens on cold start.[/*][*]EV maintenance is much less frequent and much cheaper, eliminating almost all items having to do with engine, transmission, or brakes in a gas car. In most EVs the maintenance schedule consists of battery coolant changes and tire maintenance.[/*][*]You can accelerate fast in EVs without noisily attracting the attention of the cops and every passerby on the street.[/*][/list]
  • MaintenanceCosts Still can't get a RAV4 Prime for love or money. Availability of normal hybrid RAV4s and Highlanders is only slightly better. At least around here I think Toyota could sell twice the number of vehicles that they are actually bringing in at the moment.
  • Tree Trunk Been in the market for a new Highlander Hybrid, it is sold out with order time of 6 months plus. Probably would have bit the bullet if it was not for the dealers the refuse to take an order but instead want to sell from allotment whether it fits or not and at thousands over MRSP.
  • AKHusky The expense argument is nonsense. My mach e was $42k after tax credit. Basically the same as similarly equipped edge. And it completely ignores that the best selling vehicles are Rams, F150s, and Silverados, all more expensive that a bolt, MAch e or ID4. As an owner, I'd say they are still in second car territory for most places in the country.
  • Johnster I live in a red state and I see quite a few EVs being purchased by conservative, upper-class Republicans (many of them Trump-supporters). I suspect that it is a way for them to flaunt their wealth and that, over time, the preference for EVs will trickle down to less well-off Republicans.