Uber Ups The Ante On Self Driving Cars

It seems the floodgates have opened when it comes to self driving cars. A day after I wrote about Ford committing to having self driving cars by 2021, Volvo and Uber have cut a deal to get self driving cars on the streets sooner:

Uber Technologies Inc. will begin using self-driving taxis to ferry customers around Pittsburgh as soon as this month, a first for the industry in a race among automobile and technology companies to make driverless cars commercially available.

Uber’s service, using specially-equipped Volvo XC90 sport-utility vehicles and Ford Focus, would appear to be the first time that commuters could hail a ride in a driverless car. But while the effort signals a breakthrough in commercialization of the technology, it won’t be a brave new world of robot cars: Two Uber employees will be sitting in the front seat of each vehicle.

One Uber employee will be in the driver’s seat with hands on the steering wheel as an emergency backup, another observing from the passenger seat, the company said. Uber will only make a few cars available to start—with the eventual goal of having 100 in Pittsburgh and possibly elsewhere in the coming months—and they will only go limited distances within the city.

The test, which could begin in as soon as two weeks, is limited. The autonomous vehicles may be assigned at random based on customers’ preference, the start location and the length of the trip.

It doesn’t end there. Uber also announced Thursday that it will acquire the Silicon Valley-based autonomous truck startup Ottomotto LLC. The deal will see the company’s founder Anthony Levandowski join Uber to lead the company’s efforts in autonomous vehicles.

You have to wonder who’s going to be next to make an announcement about what they’re doing with self driving cars. .

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