Cleveland transportation companies cautiously optimistic as 'driverless' motoring emerges

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - With fresh news about driverless cars on a seemingly daily basis, and the announcement that a pilot program on automated driving is coming to public streets in Texas this summer, local motorists are skeptical but respectful about the potential challenges.

Danny Conway, of Danny Boy's Transportation, and Dave Helton, with Amer-Express service, each have 30 years of driving experience in the Cleveland area.

They've seen the changes in their business brought on by apps like Uber and Lyft, but have also seen some of their customers come back to a more reliable and personable service like theirs.

The biggest question, according to Conway, is cost. Will a driverless car service be as cheap and convenient as Uber? And what are the risks or liabilities if something goes wrong with the car?

Helton believes money and ego are driving the new technology. Without paying drivers, insurance or benefits, the owner of a driverless fleet might be able to pull in more money. Helton also says many out there want to be the first to come up with a great new idea or app to change the landscape.

Despite customers saying that they would never set foot in a driverless car, both Conway and Helton are keeping a wary eye on driverless cars as another possible competitor in their field. If the technology ever becomes commonplace, hundreds or thousands of Cleveland drivers could be out of work, and the Uber model has already changed how traditional cab companies do business. Helton works with independent contractors with their own insurance. Conway relies on repeat customers and hotels who know how he operates.

For now, Conway and Helton believe their customer service, reputation and reliability will keep them busy for the foreseeable future. And while driverless cars might be close, a driverless bus or cargo van might be further off, helping them keep big groups for weddings or concerts.

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