One usually talk about the “last mile” but in this case I find it catchier, and more appropriate, to call this the “first mile”.
The cars, named QiQ pod, actually a sort of sardine box 2.4m long and 1m wide able to sit 2, can be requested via an app. There will be between 300 and 600 of them starting 2021 that can be used to shuttle people back and forth between the MTR station and home. They are electric self-driving cars that leverage on the experience of QiQ operation of 400 eBikes and eScooters in Hanoi (Vietnam).
The very specific service offer simplifies logistics (there can be recharging stations at the MTR) and decreases cost. It also simplifies the self-driving since the area of operation will be limited and can be mapped with great precision. Besides, all QiQ pods can communicate with one another acting as sensors that constantly update the operation field.
All this increased simplicity and the bare-bone structure of the pods translates into low operation cost, hence low price to the consumer that should promote their use. There will be, I suspect, issue of peak times versus slow business times. During the rush hours they are likely to be in high demand, hence the need for having many of them serving the area, but once the rush hour is gone they are likely to sit idle (which may give them plenty of time to recharge) and this may make the business model more complicated than a shared service not constrained to operate in a limited area.
Will see. For sure it is interesting to see these kind of the solutions being worked out. In the end they might even become an extension of the public MTR service and in that case the soundness of the business model should be measured by comparing the cost of extending MTR to serve a specific neighborhood versus using small pods to connect the existing line with it.