Uber Launches Self-Driving Cars On The Streets of San Francisco
Uber is getting into the autonomous car business earlier than most, as residents of San Francisco can now hail a self-driving car as part of the test launch in Uber’s hometown!
Of course, this isn’t going to be a hassle-free launch: California law necessitates a test permit for self-driving prototypes — a permit which Uber does not have. For their part, Uber is arguing that they don’t need the permit, since the cars will each have an Uber employee behind the wheel as a safety measure.
The launch will kick off with several Volvo XC90s hitting the streets of San Francisco today, each with sensors that will allow the car to steer, accelerate, brake, and change lanes. Naturally, riders who are creeped out by all this can request a human driver instead if they find themselves paired with an autonomous car by the app.
And there’s some reason for concern, judging by the iffy nature of Tuesday’s testing. From CNBC:
There was room for improvement during a Tuesday test drive attended by The Associated Press. The car was destined for a local pizza parlor, but didn’t pull directly in front of the restaurant, and instead stopped in the middle of the street. The cars may strike some riders as over-cautious, too. During the test drive, one idled in a traffic jam even though an adjacent lane was clear, prompting the human driver to make the move himself.
Still, Uber is moving forward with the launch, confident that they can help autonomous vehicles attain more widespread acceptance.
Ultimately, it will be up to consumers whether or not they’re comfortable with something like this. Some might argue that a launch of this magnitude requires far more in-field testing than it has received, in order to work out any kinks. Still, the failsafe measure of having a human driver behind the wheel should mitigate some of the concern, although it’s certainly understandable if a rider wants to opt out and request a human driver instead.
What do you think? Is this a good idea for Uber? Or should they hold off on launching their self-driving fleet? Sound off in the comments!
And for more automotive news, find out why Volkswagen’s four-time World Rally Car Champion Sebastien Ogier is defecting to the competition!