Taxi firm Addison Lee has announced that it'll have autonomous cars ferrying people around London by 2021.
The collaboration with autonomous software company Oxbotica will see the two brands "pool expertise, technology and on-the-ground resource to explore self-driving car services that are safe and environmentally friendly."
Interestingly, the press release also says the self-driving cars will "still deliver the exceptional customer experiences Addison Lee Group is known for." Judging by their sterling two-and-a-half-stars on TripAdvisor, that sounds pretty achievable for a robot.
The first step in the partnership will be creating digital maps of 250,000 miles of roads in and around London, including "every kerb, road sign, landmark and traffic light." Presumably these will need to be updated pretty constantly, because if there's one thing London's not, it's finished.
Part of the project will apparently include shared shuttles to popular destinations like workplaces and airports.
Addison Lee CEO Andy Boland comments:
"Urban transport will change beyond recognition in the next 10 years with the introduction of self-driving services, and we intend to be at the very forefront of this change by acting now.
Autonomous technology holds the key to many of the challenges we face in transport. By providing ride-sharing services, we can help address congestion, free space used for parking and improve urban air quality through zero-emission vehicles."
Meanwhile, Oxbotica CEO Graeme Smith said:
"This represents a huge leap towards bringing autonomous vehicles into mainstream use on the streets of London, and eventually in cities across the United Kingdom and beyond.
Our partnership with Addison Lee Group represents another milestone for the commercial deployment of our integrated autonomous vehicle and fleet management software systems in complex urban transport conditions. Together, we are taking a major step in delivering the future of mobility."
Of course, Addison Lee is far from the only company preparing for an autonomous future. Most prominently, Uber has been trialling self-driving vehicles in the US, although trust in robot cars there has plummeted since one of Uber's prototypes hit and killed a cyclist.
Whether the self-driving taxis on this side of the pond will listen to LBC, have coffee breath and espouse racially-insensitive opinions is yet to be revealed.