Uber’s first driverless car hits the streets

Uber's self-driving car

Uber has defeated automobile giants Google, Tesla and Ford on the quest to release the first ever self-driving car to the public, releasing a fleet of self-driving Uber’s onto the streets of Pittsburgh late last month.

Uber hasn’t specified how many self-driving test cars have hit the road but a company blog post has unveiled that the first self-driving Uber car to hit the streets of downtown Pittsburgh was a Ford Fusion Hybrid with a roof covered in radars, lasers and cameras. According to the post, the self-driving car won’t just be testing out real-world traffic reactions but will also be used to collect road-map data.

“If you’re driving around Pittsburgh in the coming weeks you might see a strange sight: a car that looks like it should be driven by a superhero,” the blog post read. “But this is no movie prop — it’s a test car from Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center (ATC) in Pittsburgh.”

Even though customers may find themselves getting into a driverless car, the post read, a trained driver will still be present and in front of the wheel just in case any mishaps were to occur and Bloomberg reports that a co-pilot will also be present in the passenger seat, taking notes on a laptop while cameras inside and outside the car record everything so that Uber can fix any glitches. Each car will also have a tablet in the back seat to explain to riders what’s going on.

Uber’s goal through this development is to improve the “quality of life for people around the world” and reduce the amount of car accident deaths that occur every year because of human error.

“1.3 million people die every year in car accidents — 94% of those accidents involve human error. In the future we believe this technology will mean less congestion, more affordable and accessible transportation, and far fewer lives lost in car accidents,” the post read. “These goals are at the heart of Uber’s mission to make transportation as reliable as running water — everywhere and for everyone.”

Bloomberg also reports that Uber has struck a deal with Volvo to have specially modified Volvo XC90 sport-utility vehicles as part of their fleet and unlike its competitors, has no plans to actually manufacture a self-driving car for the future themselves but instead plan to create arrangements with leading automobile companies to utilize their cars in the Uber self-driving fleet.

Uber’s mission to bring the self-driving taxi to life isn’t just for the good of the world, as they do have a financial gain with this investment. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick recognizes that through the use of self-driving taxis, Uber’s profit would exponentially rise because of the lack of driver.

“When there’s no other dude in the car, the cost of taking an Uber anywhere becomes cheaper than owning a vehicle, “ Kalanick, according to USA Today, said at the 2014 Code Conference when Google unveiled its self-driving car prototype. “So the magic there is, you basically bring the cost below the cost of ownership for everybody, and then car ownership goes away.”

Kalanick also told Bloomberg that in the long run, the price for a ride with a driverless Uber would become so cheap- even for long trips in rural areas- that it’ll just be cheaper to get an Uber then a private car.

As of this moment, customers who are picked up by a driverless Uber will not have to pay fare.


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Image retrieved from Flickr.

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