Pittsburgh Uber riders now have a chance of being greeted by a self-driving car. Uber just rolled out a fleet of autonomous cars to test the technology in the real world. They’ll also watch how passengers and other drivers respond to the autonomous vehicles.
Uber’s self-driving cars are outfitted with a Lidar unit, which is provides a 360 degree view, and cameras so the cars can respond to the unexpected along the road. While the technology is advanced enough for fully autonomous driving, for now a human driver will ride along, poised to take the wheel if necessary.
Testing how the self-driving cars respond to obstacles and how humans respond to the cars are both important aspects of Uber’s real-world research. Carnegie Mellon University robotics researcher Aaron Steinfeld told TechCrunch, “Autonomy – typically people are a little bit nervous about it. But once they experience it they tend to build up familiarity and become accepting of it.”
What about all the drivers who could lose their jobs? While Uber says technology can be “disrupting,” they also said self-driving cars could open up new employment opportunities. Self-driving Uber cars ultimately could cruise around cities 24 hours each day, and thus would require more maintenance than the average car which may only be driven for a few hours daily.
According to a statement from the company, “Of course, we can’t predict exactly what the future will hold. But we know that self-driving Ubers have enormous potential to further our mission and improve society: reducing the number of traffic accidents, which today kill 1.3 million people a year; freeing up the 20 percent of space in cities currently used to park the world’s billion plus cars; and cutting congestion, which wastes trillions of hours every year.”
Images via Uber