Addison Lee has unveiled plans to launch self-driving taxis in London by 2021 as it joins the autonomous vehicle road race.
The firm has formed a strategic alliance with ground transportation business Oxbotica. Oxbotica specialise in self-driving vehicle software.
Together, the duo will create digital maps of more than 250,000 miles of public roads in and around the capital. They will pinpoint the position of every kerb, road sign, landmark and traffic light. This massive task has to be done before autonomous cars can be deployed.
Self-driving vehicles are coming fast
Addison boss Andy Boland said: “Urban transport will change beyond recognition in the next 10 years. 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. (It will also) free space used for parking and improve urban air quality through zero-emission vehicles.”
Chancellor Philip Hammond has thrown his weight behind autonomous cars, saying that he wants “genuine driverless vehicles” on Britain’s roads, also by 2021.
To this end the Government has tasked the Law Commission with carrying out a detailed review of driving laws to ensure the UK is at the forefront of the sector.
Addison Lee rival Uber and several other firms are also gearing up to roll out driverless cars.
The cost of taking on Uber
But the news comes at a challenging time for Addison Lee. The group posted a pre-tax loss of £20.8 million in the year to August 2017. Not great after making a profit of £10.5 million the year before.
Addison put the fall down to “intense long-term investment”, acquisition integration and reorganisation. This milked them of £18.6 million of exceptional costs.
The taxi firm has been looking to keep pace with the astronomical rise of Uber.
Addison Lee, which is owned by US private equity firm Carlyle Group, was founded in Battersea in 1975. It’s grown to become Europe’s largest private hire car service company. Its vehicles carry out 10 million journeys per year.