Residents of Pittsburgh now have the opportunity to get around town in an Uber that drives itself.
The transport app rolled out their autonomous fleet of taxis in the US last week, hot on the heels of the world’s first self-driving taxi trials that began in Singapore recently. But driverless doesn’t mean you’ll be alone in the robotic car — for the time being, two Uber employees will be joining each ride to monitor the car’s self-driving capabilities, and probably to make sure the vehicle doesn’t end up overturned in a ditch somewhere.
You won’t be able to specifically hire a self-driving Uber right now however, as the app randomly assigns the cars when there’s a request for an UberX. The company also plans to gather feedback from customers to decide how to expand its self-driving program.
It’s an exciting time for driverless vehicles, as more companies are joining the party to develop autonomous vehicle technology — from Ford’s announcement of its self-driving car that will have no steering wheel, gas pedal or brakes, to Volvo starting trials for its autonomous SUV. For Uber, self-driving vehicles are the start of what it believes will be the future of urban transport, and could eventually cut the cost of transport by eliminating the need for drivers.
The dawn of autonomous cars thus raises some pertinent questions about employment — what does this mean for cab drivers who could potentially lose their jobs? According to Uber, self-driving cars still have a safety driver in the front seat for now because they require human intervention in certain conditions.
The driverless cars might also actually create new employment opportunities. Since autonomous cars could ultimately be cruising the streets 24 hours a day, more maintenance would be required than on the average car which may only be driven for a few hours each day.
There’s currently no news for when Uber’s self-driving cars might be rolling out to Asia, but we've reached out to the company for comment so stay tuned for updates.