Hot on the heels of Elon Musk’s comment that he expects self-driving Teslas to be available by summer, Uber has announced that it is rolling out its own fleet of autonomous vehicles in select markets. The troubled transportation company, which has been at the center of controversy surrounding its driver screening process and passenger safety, said the move was a way to “better protect [its] customers by removing the human element.”
After facing public scrutiny and legal action resulting from numerous customer complaints about unsavory or criminal acts by its drivers over the past few years, Uber has been working to beef up its driver screening process. Candidates must now pass federal, multi-state, and county background checks before being hired, and Uber has taken out a commercial insurance policy that covers each ride for up to $1 million.
However, the company felt that they could do even more to help make passengers as comfortable as possible, and did extensive research into the millions of feedback comments they’ve received since they started in 2009. One of the recurring sentiments they were able to pick out from the data was that 99% of their complaints had to do with driver behavior. As a follow-up to the study, a poll was sent out asking 3,000 customers if they would prefer to be picked up by a car with no driver at all. An overwhelming 87% replied “yes.”
“It may sound crazy, but I would feel much safer in a taxi with no driver at all,” said one poll responder, who asked to remain nameless.
Uber plans to roll out a testing phase of their new self-driving fleet this week in select areas.