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Reports in the United States suggest that the ultimate goal of the self-driving car project is to create a “robo-taxi” that picks up commuters on demand. Company executives believe that such a system could transform transport systems around the world, doing away with the need for most people to buy cars. They also believe that it would reduce the number of road accidents as well as having environmental benefits.
Automated taxis have long been the stuff of science fiction, such as the robot-operated “Johnny Cab” that featured in the 1990 blockbuster Total Recall.
“The price that most developers will pick is free,” said Steve Jobs, late co-founder of Apple, when he launched a store for iPhone applications in 2008. Apple and software developers had “exactly the same interest, which is to get as many apps out in front of as many iPhone users as possible,” he said.
Five years later, the gadget goliath has proved there is money to be made in shunting out goods for nothing. Since its inception, more than 50bn apps have been downloaded by iPhone and iPad owners, generating $9bn (£5.8bn) for software engineers. Apple, which takes a 30% cut of all paid-for applications, has pocketed $3.9bn.