The natural end point has to rely on autonomous driving technology”—not humans, says Emilio Frazzoli, director of the Transportation@MIT Initiative. He thinks robots could be taking the wheel in the next 15 years, certainly within the next 30. The reasons, he says, are economical and cultural.
First, as much as 50 percent of an Uber ride’s cost goes toward paying the human behind the wheel, Frazzoli says, and that’s money that could be going into Uber’s pocket. Replacing human operators has already begun in Singapore, a city that relies heavily on public transit. It’s not widely advertised, Frazzoli says, but the subway trains there “are completely automated. They are just horizontal elevators.”