International ride hailing and delivery company Uber has extended its self-driving vehicle pilot programme to the US city of San Francisco.
Announcing the news on the company blog, Anthony Levandowski, Head of Uber’s Advanced Technology Group, said: “Starting today, riders who request an uberX in San Francisco will be matched with a Self-Driving Uber if one is available. Expanding our self-driving pilot allows us to continue to improve our technology through real-world operations.”
In September, Uber began road testing its self-driving vehicles in Pittsburgh.
Uber will be using Volvo XC 90’s in San Francisco. Levandowski has said that the city should present some new and interesting challenges for the self-driving cars as the city has “more bikes on the road, high traffic density and narrow lanes”.
“The promise of self-driving is core to our mission of reliable transportation, everywhere for everyone,” said Levandowski. “As demand for ridesharing continues to skyrocket, the future of transportation will be a mix of human drivers and self-driving cars.”
Interestingly, Levandowski added that there has been “debate” over whether Uber needs a testing permit to launch self-driving vehicles in San Francisco, and concluded: “We have looked at this issue carefully and we don’t believe we do.”
While an interesting diversion from the current core business of deliveries, the fact is that self-driving vehicles will be on the road taking business away from human driven vehicles in the next decade as political and technological obstacles fall. While major players are developing their own technologies, smaller scale delivery companies should sit up and watch as it will significantly reduce manpower costs in the medium term.
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