Well folks, it looks like the future has finally arrived. While we may not have flying cars quite yet, Uber is taking us one step closer this month by announcing its first self-driving cars. You may be saying to yourself, “What about Google’s self-driving car?” Yes, that exists, but the difference here is that these cars will be picking up actual people in the city of Pittsburgh, starting this month.
News of Uber’s plans broke in early 2015 and excitement continued to grow earlier this year when they announced that they were beginning to test cars in Pittsburgh. Unlike Google, who is creating their own cars, Uber has teamed up with Volvo to modify their cars and make them self-driving. They do this by outfitting cars with autonomous driving kits. A key player in this modification is Otto, a start-up that was quickly snapped up by Uber when they started toying with the idea of bringing self-driving technology to trucks. Otto’s technology can be used in existing trucks, and now Uber is using it to turn Volvos into self-driving vehicles.
Now that the cars will be put to actual use, it’s clear that Uber’s development was much more successful than Google’s. When I first heard the news, I was slightly wary. If such a high-tech company like Google can’t produce a perfect car, how can Uber do it? Don’t worry; Uber is going to be implementing safety precautions in each of the 100 modified Volvo XC90s. Every car will have an engineer in it, who can take the wheel if needed. There will also be a co-pilot to observe and take notes. In addition, there will be a “liquid-cooled” computer sitting in the trunk that records trip and map data. You’re safe as can be in this scenario; they’re testing self driving cars but have people standing by at the ready in case anything goes wrong.
Everyone at Uber seems to be excited to get the ball rolling. Uber Chief Executive Travic Kalanick told The Wall Street Journal, “The technology is going to happen because the promise is so real…It’s existential. We have to have all the best minds working on this.” If they can successfully pull this off in Pittsburgh, we’re likely to see self-driving Ubers spring up all around the U.S.
While this may be cool for those of us fascinated by the thought of self-driving cars, it spells bad news for the over 1 million Uber drivers who will have to find some other way to make a profit. So if you’ve always dreamed of working as an Uber driver, now may be your last chance to give it a try.
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