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What would a taxi driver’s job look like using a ‘Level 4’ self-driving autonomous taxi?

Image credit: DALL.E (AI generated)

A taxi driver at the helm of a ‘Level 4’ automated cab would see a big shift in their role, even when compared to ‘Level 3’ driving, as the vehicle can handle all driving tasks under specific conditions without human intervention.

Here’s an look at what the job might entail working with ‘Level 4’ autonomy as a tool to the trade:

Primary Responsibilities:

1. System Supervision: Although Level 4 vehicles can operate independently in designated areas or conditions, the driver is still responsible for monitoring the system's performance. This involves keeping an eye on the automated systems to ensure they are functioning correctly and stepping in to manage any anomalies or system failures.

2. Zone Transition Management: Level 4 automation is typically confined to specific geographic zones or operational conditions. The driver would need to manage transitions into and out of these zones—taking control when the vehicle moves outside the areas where full automation is supported.

3. Emergency and Anomaly Response: The driver must be prepared to intervene in cases of unexpected system behavior or when encountering unusual or unforeseen road conditions that the automated system is not programmed to handle.

Secondary Responsibilities:

1. Enhanced Customer Interaction: With driving tasks largely managed by the vehicle within its operational boundaries, the driver can focus significantly on customer service. This includes engaging with passengers, providing information about the journey, addressing any concerns, and ensuring a high-quality travel experience.

2. Vehicle Condition Oversight: Before starting and during trips, the driver would ensure that all vehicle sensors, cameras, and driving systems are in optimal condition. This includes conducting routine checks and maintenance to guarantee that automation systems are reliable and safe.

3. Route and Traffic Management: In cases where specific routing decisions are needed—like detours due to construction or heavy traffic—the driver might still select alternative routes to improve route efficiency, even though the vehicle can navigate on its own using sat-nav technology.

Drivers of Level 4 automated taxis would require advanced training in both the technical aspects of automation and customer service techniques. They would need to be adept at understanding and troubleshooting high-level automation systems and have strong skills in emergency management.

Drivers would utilise sophisticated diagnostic tools and interfaces that offer comprehensive insights into the vehicle’s automation systems. These tools help monitor system health, provide alerts for maintenance, and ensure readiness for all driving conditions.

A significant part of the driver’s role would be ensuring the safety and security of passengers. This includes verifying that all vehicle doors are locked during transit, monitoring vehicle surroundings for security threats, and ensuring that the vehicle’s communication systems are secure and private.

The job of a taxi driver in a Level 4 automated taxi would be less about hands-on driving and more about managing the automated systems, ensuring safety and reliability, and providing an exceptional passenger experience.


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