Driverless Cars? How Driverless Should They Be?

METRO NEWS CALGARY’s  Sunday Edition (June 11,2017) reports that a number of city councilors would like to see autonomous vehicle testing in Calgary.  There apparently could be some 30 companies Alberta currently developing technologies that could be applied to autonomous vehicles.

Brodie Thomas’ article appearing in Calgary’s METRO NEWS  be read by clicking HERE .


Once upon a century I was watching a TV show where a standup comedian opined about the onset of new technology in autonomous transportation.  His story went like this:

People were aboard an airliner that had just taken off.  Once airborne, the intercom came on and the passengers heard

“Welcome aboard your pilotless flight to London.”

“This aircraft is totally automatic and has no pilot aboard”

“Be rest assured that with a robotic pilot absolutely nothing could possibly go wrong… go wrong … go wrong … go wrong……. go wrong …  like a broken record.”

That joke I heard underscores an important point about autonomous transportation— the driver is a machine without a soul and like the engine that propels the vehicle,  something can indeed go wrong.  All machinery, including computers and robots, break down from time to time.

That is why modern airlines, although operating autonomously for most if not all of the flight, requires a qualified pilot onboard.   Automobiles are no exception.  The driver must be capable of taking control of the vehicle at any time.

Such technology is a valuable asset to automobile technology and will certainly reduce the rate of accidents but it has its limitations like everything else. 

Autonomous vehicles are a great idea provided that a manual override switch is installed.




Calgary:  May  31,  2017

Roger Richard, the president and CEO of Associated Cabs told LTAC at its May monthly meeting  that LTAC’s current licensing practices of shared ride companies such as UBER are unfair given their reduced licensing costs accruing to their drivers.

Mr. Richard warned LTAC unless there are serious efforts to remove the inequities favorable to Uber, he will initiate legal action against the city.

Although ride share operators pay $220 annually for their city taxi drivers license or “badge” as cab drivers call it, they do not pay any fees to the city to license their cars.  Taxi driver have to pay $877 annually for their plate renewal.  That’s $1.2million to city coffers courtesy the traditional taxi driver while UBER and its drivers pay absolutely nothing.

Moreover, the cab driver’s license fee costs $176 annually ($135 + $41 for police check), an Uber driver pays $220 paid for by Uber itself on behalf of its drivers then collects 20 cents per trip from Uber’s customers.  In short, nothing.

LTAC’s fee schedule makes no reference to the costs of background checks for TNC drivers.  Cab drivers pay $41.00 up front annually whenever they renew their license and a laminated “badge” is issued to be prominently displayed inside their cab.  I am yet to see such a badge displayed inside any PFHV’s that I have hired.   How much are TNC’s drivers paying anyway and when do they pay it?

Not only that, but Uber and other TNCs are permitted to satisfy their market share with as many cars as they want while taxi brokers, thanks to overregulation and backroom wheeling and dealing, are not.

Small wonder therefore that cab drivers are so miffed at the introduction of Uber.

The essential truth is that whenever anyone, whether its a garage, dealership, technology company or anyone else, gets into the business of recruiting and dispatching passenger cars of any kind for hire, they are a taxi broker period.  As such, the legislation under which they operate has to apply equally to all of them period.   That’s all that taxi drivers really want.

John Bliss©2017

ERRATA;  I incorrectly stated that there are no background checks done on TNC drivers.  Please accept my apologies.