Take a ride in a driverless taxi

Level: B2/C1/ C2

Type of English: general, business, 

Lesson activities: listening comprehension, vocabulary building, speaking practice. 

Grammar focus: use of strong adjectives

Tags: AI, driverless cars, robots, 

Driverless taxis, or “robotaxis”, have been rolled out on the streets of San Francisco.

The company in charge is named Cruise 

Opening Questions:

What does AV mean? 


What’s another verb used to “call” a taxi?


Would you like to test a driverless car/ taxi? 


What does it mean to roll out a new product/ service or policy? 


Can you sometimes be a nervous passenger? 


What is your favourite sci-fi film?

New Vocabulary Questions:

Can you name a situation when you need to “buckle up”? 


Can you name some of the most famous landmarks in your city?


Have you ever been on a rollercoaster?


Have you ever experienced an emotional rollercoaster?


What does the word cruise mean as a noun and as a verb? 


What sort of activity can put you at ease?


What sort of activity can not put you at ease?


If an action is jerky, how does it move?


If a product is recalled, what happened? 


What does it mean to deploy a product/ service?


In business what is a game changer? 


What are teething problems with babies and with new ideas? 


Name 2 things where you pay a fare?


What does it mean to be safe and sound?

Watch the Video:

Task: Try to write down or remember the adjectives used to describe the taxi experience. 

wow I think there’s actually no car no

one in there wow this is incredible 

oh my

let’s go straight something straight out of the sci-fi film 

is this happening ?

people are able to hail cabs with no driver

fully autonomous Robo taxis 

stop ! I love it

I cannot believe this is happening


but others believe it’s too soon for fully driverless cars to be on our streets 

the public as a whole has not been provided with valid documentation that these vehicles are going to be safe

there’s only one way to find out 

get into one of these cars ourselves 

the BBC was one of the first media organizations in the world to try it is this it

oh wow

wow okay uh 

take a seat in the back and close the doors buckle up and get ready to ride 

start here our plan for the evening is to go to some of San Francisco’s landmarks 

the Painted Ladies,  Mrs Doubtfire’s house, and hate Ashbury

no one’s telling us where to go 

we can go wherever we want

it’s really really weird

like a race track or a testing facility

we are fully in the center of San Francisco

it’s like going on a roller coaster or

something that feeling before like you

just you know you’re probably gonna be

fine but it it’s still 


uh uh 

what’s going on here so how does it negotiate this

I have to say it’s pretty conservative driving 

like we got to that stop first and now we’re going so


it’s definitely cautious

and that’s no accident, Cruises vice president of products Oliver Cameron tells me the cars are programmed to drive conservatively

on any of our cruise AVS we have lidar, we have radar, and we have cameras and what we do is we fuse all those together

using machine learning and that gives us this amazing understanding of the world

around us by Design we’re making our AV extra cautious when it hits the roads

the problem was the system didn’t always put me at ease in fact it made me pretty nervous

oh the car is just stopped in the middle

of the street


I’m glad you were filming that

because that was a really jerky left turn into the into the other road

oh this is interesting 

okay there’s a bus in our lane and there are cars to our left 

so what’s it gonna do

oh oh okay it’s pulling out left

oh another bus is coming out right it

really doesn’t know what to do oh

there’s a car behind us like 

this is just bad driving this is 

I was ready to love this and 

I’m definitely

I’m definitely nervous 

I’m a nervous passenger right now

one of the things I think is worth factoring is that our AV makes different decisions than humans in many cases 

our AV makes human-like decisions but sometimes it makes decisions that are very precise 

like a computer is making them right which is effectively what’s happening 

so that moment although it felt dangerous you’re saying wasn’t a computer knew what it was doing exactly


Cruz though has been involved in a number of accidents in San Francisco

this year most of them minor however after an accident in June, its software was recalled 

and some believe it’s too soon for real passengers to be driven around without a driver on urban streets

these vehicles are still somewhat in the test phase and and Cruz is has decided to deploy them in in certain areas 

where they will interact with the public and we believe that before manufacturers do that 

they need to provide the public with some sort of transparent evidence that these vehicles aren’t going to

cause problems deaths or injuries on the road 

but Cruse insists its cars are safe

and we’re really proud of our safety record and we report continuously to our regulators and 

safety absolutely is the the top priority 

we are six months into deploying this product brand new game changing product and with that comes 

some early teething problems right so we take traffic into account but we also take safety into account 

Cruise has just started accepting fares in San Francisco at night the public are actually using this and it’ll

be launching in Austin and Phoenix by the end of the year 

as for our journey well, we visited all the sites we wanted to see, albeit, 

through some strange routing and made it back safe and sound

it was amazing surreal scary all-in-one


um that was really bizarre experience 

I’m just an unnerving experience okay so oh whoa

not a scratch on us but definitely did some things

during that ride that made me feel uncomfortable 

oh what’s happened there

it definitely needs a bit more work

Listening Comprehension Questions:

What is the one way to find out if the taxi is safe? 


How does he describe the style of driving?


How did the reporter describe the experience?


What is the difference between an AV’s decisions and human decisions? 


What technology is used to drive the taxi?


What do the regulators want to see? 


In which other cities will this service launch? 


What does it mean to survive an experience without a scratch?


What was the reporter’s conclusion? 


Can you imagine this in a European city?


Do you agree/ disagree that it is too soon for driverless taxis?


Could this be a game changer?


Did you recognise the tourist destinations/ landmarks they went to in San Francisco? 


Have you ever heard about the backseat driver? 


Do you believe the Cruise employee when he says that safety is the top priority?


How would you describe your driving style?


What are taxis often called in the USA and the UK?



Adjectives used to describe the experience:









Vocabulary Building Task: Create a sentence using each of the above adjectives.

New Vocabulary Practice:

What makes an iconic landmark?


Describe a rollercoaster situation/ experience?


Do you have cruise control in your car?


Do you have any advise to help put a nervous client at ease?


Can you remember a recent product recall, and what was the cause? 


Name 2 different things that can be deployed?


What technology is a game changer this year? 


What are some typical teething problems when starting a new job? 


What is the difference between a fair and a fare?


Can you use the expression safe and sound?

Buckle up!

Watch how buckle up is used in popular culture. How would you define it? 

Additional Material:

Look at the YouTube comments below. Agree/ disagree or elaborate. 



3 days ago

Nearly every time I’m on the highway, I’ll see at least one car drift out of their lane either toward the shoulder, or much scarier, cross the center line into my lane and invariably, when they pass, you’ll see them looking at their phone or other device which is distracting them their from driving. At least driverless cars won’t have that problem which is becoming more acute by the day.




3 days ago

To me this is perfect because you know, there are inconvenient drivers and more than once I didn’t felt safe in some travels. Others will want to talk when you clearly don’t want to. So to me this is great. Is funny that I’ll feel more safe with a A.I than with a human.


Lord Phroyt

2 days ago (edited)

These aren’t as safe as you’d think. They have weird problems because a robot just can’t replicate a real human. It doesn’t have the instinct that a human does. It keeps behaving strangely on the road.

Also, it’s sad that there are no real drivers because then people miss out on that friendly human interaction. Like this is  prime example of the social fraying and loneliness of the modern world.



to roll out = to deploy in a planned way 

AV = automated vehicle 

to call a taxi = to hail a taxi 

buckle up = to put your seat belt on / to get ready for something exciting 

landmarks = recognisable locations like The Eiffel Tower 

a rollercoaster = a ride at the park 

an emotional rollercoaster = an experience with a lot of different emotions 

to cruise = to travel at a steady speed 

a cruise = a voyage on a ship/ boat 

to be put at ease = to relax you 

teething problems = beginner problems 

a fare = a taxi fare / a metro fare ( the cost/ price) 

A fair = a fashion fair/ conference 

safe and sound = to be safe physically and mentally 


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