It has been a long time since news broke that Uber had begun working on self-driving vehicles.
Earlier in the year, they openly admitted that they were testing vehicles in Pittsburgh, but not much has been heard from them apart from this in the last eighteen months.
Google, the leader in self-driving cars, has been making slow progress in this area, you would be forgiven if you thought Uber was way behind in this race.
However, on the other hand, it turns out that Uber has been making a whole lot of progress in an attempt to replace its drivers with computers.
In a recent interview, Travis Kalanick, the CEO, said that they were getting ready to add self-driving vehicles to their fleet in Pittsburgh this month.
They are going to be deploying around one-hundred Volvo XC90’s that have been outfitted with self-driving technology. Every vehicle will have an engineer who can take over if required and a co-pilot who will take notes and observe. They will also have liquid cooled computers in the trunk of the cars recording map and trip data.
This means that regular Uber users now have a chance of riding in an autonomous vehicle. What’s more, this trip will be free.
There was very little information on Uber’s plans when it came to self-driving vehicles, but the company has said that they are going to be outfitting cars with their autonomous driving kits instead of trying to develop vehicles of their own like Google.
In order to do this, Uber has picked up Otto; a startup launched earlier this year which was trying to create self-driving technology for trucks. Their technology can be fit onto existing trucks and is now being adapted in order to create a laser detection system which can power autonomous Uber vehicles.
This acquisition is notable, not just because of the technology but also because of the people involved. The company boasts of names like Anthony Levandowski, Claire Delaunay, Lior Ron, and Don Burnette. They have all worked with self-driving cars and in various automotive firms like Tesla.
The deal is set to be completed this month, and Levandowski will then be leading Uber’s self-driving efforts. They are also going to open up a couple of R&D centers in order to speed up the development of this technology.
Only time will tell if this is going to work but we will certainly get a glimpse of this technology in action sometime soon.