Driverless taxis, e-rickshaws: Asia travel gets futuristic


They're not using Marty McFly's DeLoreans yet, however Asia's consumer transportation industry is embracing new technologies at a fierce pace, with electric rickshaws and driverless taxis as the current innovations.

Indian taxi-hailing service Ola revealed on Tuesday that it would consist of electric rickshaws on its popular mobile app. Like other electric vehicles, the e-rickshaws are battery-powered and are purported to produce no emissions, a significant change from the smoke-wielding auto-rickshaws omnipresent in South Asia.

"With over 60 percent of the India's population living in villages throughout the nation, the e-rickshaw initiative aims to enhance mobility in these towns. People in these cities and towns presently struggle with absence of practical and reputable movement alternatives, specifically for brief distances," Ola said in a statement.

The announcement accompanied the launch of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "Stand-Up India" project designed to promote entrepreneurship with the 65-year-old leader ceremonially reserving the very first Ola e-rickshaw.

E-rickshaws have been on the Indian market for a few years but have yet to be integrated into the country's sharing economy.

Singapore's taxi industry, already under pressure from the appeal of apps such as Uber and Grab, is likewise set for a serious leap forward.

nuTonomy drew attention just recently when it emerged that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) spin-off was establishing a fleet of driverless electric taxis.

The service aims to be "a more convenient kind of public transit while helping in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the largely populated city-state," according to an MIT release.

The driverless taxis will follow ideal courses for picking up and dropping off travelers to minimize traffic congestion and additionally, they might be more affordable than Uber and regular taxis, MIT said.

nuTonomy is in the process of getting approval for on-road screening and intends to deploy countless driverless taxis in the Lion City in a couple of years' time, noted nuTonomy co-founder and primary innovation policeman Emilio Frazzoli.

Experts questioned how successful both transport developments would be, warning of vital barriers ahead.

"Driverless taxis and e-rickshaws will not replace existing infrastructure anytime soon. Society isn't really yet all set to move into that environment," Clement Teo, senior analyst at Forrester, told CNBC on Wednesday.

In India, for instance, users need to be comfortable utilizing a phone app for payment, he said. While mobile phone penetration is flourishing in the fast-growing economy, cash remains king as a payment form, he said.

When it comes to driverless automobiles, their dependability when it comes to accidents and insurance coverage was uncertain, he cautioned, including that policies still needed to be exercised.

"Both these innovations seem like a great experiment however they are likely still far from being full-fledged endeavors," Teo said.