Make robotaxis so cheap they can't even close their doors
A recent article on automatic closing doors for robocars argues that the car must be able to close the door, because the passenger might leave it open, and the car can't drive with an open door.
There is some truth to that, in that when using an automated vehicle, people sort of expect it to open and close the doors for you. We find it frustrating riding those old or cheap elevators that make you manually open the door, which is strange, considering that we don't find any frustration in the other many manual doors we will use during the day.
This is one reason Waymo chose the Pacifica minivan which has motorized doors. There is something particularly futuristic about a vehicle that pulls up and opens its door for you.
The Brose door just closes and doesn't open, for the reason listed above. But I have been writing about how robocars offer the potential to make cars a great deal cheaper as the cost of the sensor package and computing drops. For example, since doors cost money, a solo robocar might have only one door rather than two, having just a kick-out emergency exit panel on the other side. The car will just always park at the curb with the door in the right place, since unlike humans, robocars can back up just as confidently as go forward.
There are low cost alternatives to this motorized door. In particular, we presume that every passenger has a smartphone. So, if they do somehow forget to close the door, they will get a series of alerts on that phone. They will want to pay attention, because the robotaxi company will not close out their ride until they close that door, and so they will still be paying for the car until they do so.
Generally, it makes sense that there be some obvious sound when a ride is closed out. In addition, since the cars sensors can watch the passenger walk away from the car, even if they are not responding to their phone, the car can emit a honk as you walk away, unless you have indicated that you are making a mid-ride stop to pick something up and wish to leave the door open.
In my articles on privacy, I have indicated there should be another ritual to close out a ride, namely physically opening the interior camera. Robotaxis will want an interior camera, so they can look at the interior after you leave and see if you've left something on the seat (most common) or possibly soiled the car such that it needs to go to a car cleaning depot. But we don't want that camera spying on us while we ride. The solution is to have a physical shutter over the lens. You close the shutter to start the ride, and you open it to close out the ride.
The switch to open it could be on the outside, but ideally it's a physical switch which can't be actuated remotely. If it is remotely actuated, we would want it to be obvious when it's open so we know that the car wants to surveil us.
Of course, this car with one-mechanical door is the budget car. There should be both budget cars that offer the lowest cost transportation as well as mid-range and luxury cars at higher prices. The ability to make budget cars means the robotaxi offers private transportation to new income classes, which is good (except from a congestion standpoint.)