Uber, Lyft, and autonomous vehicles are revolutionizing the world of taxis — but they’re just rebranding

David Seaton’s taxi-by at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport can transport passengers to their destination with just a cursory glance and just as much speed.

For a journey that can easily take a couple of hours and carry a thousand people, you can load the Mercedes-Benz E300 on his forklift and send it down one of the busiest roads in the United States in an hour and a half—all while allowing the passengers to get through security and ride in an airport that’s about five years old.

Flipping the switch from just a handful of independent cabs to a single uber-powered cab-calling app is the future of transportation, say ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft, as part of a more seamless travel experience for passengers. That long ride on a crowded airport road might seem comfortable, but it leaves passengers feeling rushed and stressed, and they’ll be less likely to make the trip than if a taxi ride were seamless, Seaton says.

His own journey illustrates how Seaton’s plan may have led to his winning the taxi-calling app. According to a study by Deloitte, selecting Uber instead of a taxi in an airport may save up to $4,000, or around $15 per passenger, compared to traveling by taxi. (The study also found that Uber customers get to more destinations than taxi passengers.)

It’s hard to pinpoint how many more passengers use Uber in airport terminals than use taxis, but the numbers are certainly there. New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport alone accounts for more than 30,000 passengers a day who get picked up in Uber’s airport vans, and the ride-sharing service charges a base fare of $3.75 and a $2.99 fee per minute. A taxi, meanwhile, costs $3.57 to drive to the airport and $1.21 per minute.

In Seattle and Portland, Oregon, where taxis have long established themselves as the airports’ sole choice, Uber has even eliminated tipping in its airport van services. That doesn’t mean you’ll be leaving with a small tip, but it does mean that when you get out of the van, you’ll have to pay just a flat fee for the trip.

“I think it does not hurt the customer experience or reduce the ride-hailing company’s viability,” says Martina Correia, a managing director at David Red Carpet Advisors.

Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing services are shifting the mindset when it comes to rides to a higher level of convenience. Instead of sitting in airport terminals and waiting for a cab, passengers can get a call or text from an app and hop in a car instantly.

While some institutions see the changed way of driving vehicles as posing a security threat, autonomous vehicle maker Delphi says ride-sharing will lead to safer drivers and passengers.

Like a taxi, Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing services will have to undergo many autonomous vehicle tests to establish their true autonomy before they can take passengers on trips, so they’re likely still a long way from truly driving passengers themselves. To bring them to the public, though, safety must remain a key priority, just as it was in the taxi industry before ride-sharing companies arrived.

Taxi apps offer valuable marketing partnerships for the market leader in ride-sharing. For instance, Uber has signed on with the Atlanta airport as an official airport partner in its quest to make getting from A to B at the airport a seamless process. The app will serve as the terminal’s mobile app for customers looking to beat lines and find parking, and more people using it could benefit the company and its investors.

For airports, connecting with the ride-sharing industry could save them money and allow them to introduce new, more efficient ways of getting around. It’s just another way for airports to get travelers off the airport and out the door, with or without that crazy airport experience.

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