Uber didn’t take long to take the world by storm, offering a newer and cheaper way for people to get around without having to call up a taxi firm or stand in line at the nearest rank of cabs. But it isn’t just your trip to the airport or journey back from the bar that Uber are revolutionising. Word has it that the transportation company is taking to the world of autonomous driving by offering a range of self-driving taxis.
The scheme is currently being rolled out only in the United States, and only there in the city of Pittsburgh. Uber users will use the service as normal, but the vehicle that comes to greet them, all of them luxurious Volvo XC90s, won’t have a driver sitting behind the steering wheel; the specially-designed, self-driving Volvo will take them where they need to go without needing one.
Reassuringly, though slightly anti-climatically, there will be someone in the front seat: a technician who will make sure that everything is working properly and that safety regulations, which currently prohibit cars from driving themselves completely unaided, are being kept to. They’ll also observe and make notes about how well the vehicle is performing, and all models will include high-end systems to measure and record vital journey data.
These plans do seem to scupper rumours that Uber was going to go as far as designing its own self-driving cars, an approach that has supposedly been taken by both Google and Apple. However, going with the Volvo XC90, which enjoys a strong reputation for luxury fittings and features, seems to be a better way to go.
Though the self-driving approach will be tested in one specific area, industry insiders are confident that the world can expect a wider release in the future.
There’s certainly plenty of demand, with Uber currently boasting more than a million drivers ferrying people across the cities of the world. The company has not yet stated whether the self-driving vehicles are meant to replace those drivers, but that does appear to be part of the plan.
However, Uber are likely to be passing savings on to the customer. In fact, Pittsburgh users who are picked up by one of the around 100 self-driving Volvo XC90s will be completely recompensed for their journey as a little thank you for helping to test out Uber’s new robotic chauffeurs.