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Thoughts on Johnny Cabs

It’s becoming clear to me that driverless cars are coming, and Johnny Cabs are probably inevitable.
Which makes me wonder, do you think manufacturer will offer driverless cars specifically designed as cabs that have a “Johnny” in the driver’s seat to take some of the anxiety out of the ride?


FWIW . . . earlier today, I was reading that the Johnny Cab from the original Total Recall movie was a grumman LLV . . . aka a postal vehicle

Since the usps llv was a body on frame vehicle, I’m guessing the movie version had the regular frame and drivetrain, but a different body. Should have been relatively simple, considering the typical budget of Arnie’s movies in those days.

I don’t think Johnny will ever make an appearance in an autonomous cab. A nice relaxing computer voice, like Majel Barrett’s, will be the norm, is my guess. :slight_smile:

I don’t think there will ever be a puppet driver. At most there might be a robot that comes along to do other things, like carry your bags, but it won’t be the interface for the car. Back when Total Recall was made the internet only existed on government and university machines. Most people had never heard of it. Most people had no clue how far computers would advance, or how comfortable we’d become with them.

Today’s younger generation often prefers interacting with computers over face to face communication with humans. Even if they’re talking to humans, they’d rather do it on their phones via instant messaging and social media.

I have a niece who comes over to visit us and spends most of the visit on her phone texting other people. Then she leaves to go see other people and spends a lot of her time with them texting us. You try to explain how this is kind of… Well… Stupid, but it goes in one ear and out the other.

In short, we won’t need Johnnys because people are already so comfortable talking to computers that it’s not going to change when we get in an autonomous car. If anything, the Johnny would be roundly rejected because people aren’t going to want to even pay attention to what the car is doing, and having an animatronic guy yakking at them would be annoying - they’ll be buried in their phones and tablets until they get where they’re going.

I was thinking it was going to be more like KITT from “Knight Rider”.

Complete with ‘Turbo Boost’ so you don’t have to wait on traffic or trains?? Sign me up!!


I got to thinking about the subject more as I was drifting off last night, ,and realized that once the driverless vehicle technology has evolved to the point that there are cabs, interior designs as we now know them may be unnecessary. Imagine if you will a totally open architecture interior with no steering wheel, no pedals, no center console, no directional stalk, perhaps just climate and entertainment controls. Outside mirrors won’t even be necessary.

For daily drivers manual backup systems will probably exist, but for cab they wouldn’t need to. It’s sort of analogous to drones that replace planes. Once you remove the pilot, a whole lot of control systems, environmental systems, safety systems, etc. disappear. Cab dispatchers of the future will probably be more like air traffic controllers than dispatchers.

I probably won’t be around long enough to see it, but it’s interesting to think about.

I think it’s going to be a bunch of minivan and van shapes. Forward seats will swivel around like they did in conversion vans to make a “living room.” There will probably be a table that extends out of the floor so you can work/eat on it. Car travel is going to become a lot more like private jet travel - you sit in the passenger cabin doing whatever you want and let someone else worry about the driving.

That’ll be for the long trips. For short commutes, we probably won’t own cars anymore eventually, and it wouldn’t surprise me if manual driving in and around city centers is at some point made illegal. At that point there will be shared cars which take people to bus stops and light rail stations and people will get to work on public transit.

And while that sounds expensive, imagine how much money we’ll save when we no longer have to maintain large 8-16 lane highways all over the place because the traffic volume on them has decreased. Also imagine how much we’ll save when we aren’t sitting in traffic jams caused by idiots anymore, because the computers controlling the vehicles aren’t going to drive selfishly to the detriment of every other vehicle.

Of course, there’s going to be significant shakeups economically as well - for one thing, governments that rely on speeding tickets and red light tickets as a source of revenue are going to have to find a new source of revenue, because computers won’t commit either of those crimes.

Body shops are going to dwindle because computers won’t get into as many wrecks. Fuel stations will also become much fewer in number, because instead of needing a gas station between me and work, my car will figure out when it needs to fill up, and drive off to get that taken care of while I’m at work. If I retain ownership of my car, by the way, I can probably hire it out while I’m at work as a taxi cab and make some money off of it without having to do anything.

But the biggest shakeup once self-driving vehicles are commonplace is that the economy is gonna crash, because everyone who has a job as a vehicle driver today is getting fired. Truck drivers, pizza delivery drivers, limo drivers, cab drivers, bus drivers… They’re all going to be out of work, and that’s a lot of people - there are about 3.5 million truck drivers alone in this country, and it’s going to be one heck of a hit on the economy when millions of people instantly lose their buying power.

And it’s not just drivers - a lot of people tangentially related to actually driving are going to be out of work. DMV employees, traffic enforcement cops, driving instructors, all fired.

And even worse than that is that self-driving car research is propelling computer vision research forward. Vision is the weak link in a lot of automation. If your robot can see, it can do a lot more things. It can visually check the food order at a restaurant, it can see where to put the food on the customer’s table without knocking the lady’s purse over, etc. So, a lot of human-done jobs that aren’t related to driving at all are also going to disappear as automation takes them over.

Couple that with the AI research they’re working on and even doctors and lawyers are on shaky ground if you go far enough into the future. I’ve long suspected that, ironically, the most worthless degrees today from a career earnings perspective (liberal arts degrees like theater and music) are going to be the most valuable ones in the future, because people will be fine with robots doing all the work, but they probably aren’t going to want to watch Les Miserables performed by a bunch of droids.

So in short and largely thanks to self-driving cars, the economic future is pretty bleak for most people and will continue to be so until we figure out a way to shift our economy to one that does not require people to work in order to earn a living.

I don’t believe the transition will be quite as sharp and people that have those kind of jobs will dwindle away more gradually. Positions lost to attrition just won’t be replaced. For one thing, most companies won’t be able to make wholesale switch overs due to the capital investments required. There will be mixed fleets until the older cars are no longer viable. Now just maybe some parallel technology path will develop where robotic drivers are built that can handle the car as it is today. Then you have a bridge between the extremes AND a Johnny :slight_smile:

I used to work in television. One day my TV station decided to get robotic studio cameras. As soon as they were installed, everyone in the studio and the control room was fired except for the director, who stayed on to supervise the robots.

The robots cost them a million bucks, to replace a few guys making 7 bucks an hour.

But the station knew that over time, it would save money because it wouldn’t be paying salaries, or benefits, didn’t have to provide breaks for the robots, etc. And the best part is that the station helped to pay for it by freezing wages for the rest of us by telling us that their profits were $1m below what was expected that year… Duh, you just spent that million so you could fire a bunch of people.

Based on that experience I strongly suspect that most large companies (Yellow, CRST, etc) are going to very quickly find the money to buy robot trucks. The non-robot trucks will get sold to smaller companies, but I think that pretty much over night a lot of drivers will lose their jobs.

And the rest of them will follow quickly because the big companies, no longer having to pay driver salaries or benefits, and also able to keep their trucks on the road 24/7 instead of having mandated rest breaks - currently drivers can only drive for 11 hours, and do any sort of work at all for 14 hours, before a mandatory 10 hour rest break kicks in - will suddenly find that they can charge less money while nearly doubling their productivity and so those that don’t get on the automation bandwagon near the beginning will go out of business and the switchover will be complete.

Uber has driverless cars in a Pittsburg NOW. There is a live driver behind the wheel just in case. And right now they take over controls about 10% of the time.

As the technology evolves, that should drop to 0% in a 5-10 years. There’s a lot of work and testing to go, but it’s well on it’s way.

As for the puppet in the drivers seat…I doubt it. Too much cost for no value.

Driverless Uber cars. Now there’s a scary variation on the theme that hadn’t occurred to me. :fearful: