Uber will start using self-driving cars sooner than you think
The next time you summon an Uber in Pittsburgh, you might just get a genius self-driving robot car. The company announced that it will begin deploying self-driving cars in Pittsburgh "in a few weeks," the Associated Press reported on Thursday.
That's right — a fleet of autonomous Ford Fusions will soon be roaming the streets of Pittsburgh, picking up Uber users who "opt into the test program," according to the AP. Each autonomous car will reportedly come with a "human backup driver," in case something weird happens — such as bad weather interfering with the self-driving cars' technology.
As Bryant Walker Smith, a University of South Carolina professor and expert on autonomous cars, told the AP, Pittsburgh's bridges and winter weather will likely pose challenges. Snow can interfere with the car's sensors if it falls over lane lines on the road.
Some locals are ready to embrace the change. "This is actually curious. Fifty years ago, I was a freshman at CMU [Carnegie Mellon University]/Carnegie Institute of Technology," Pittsburgh resident Robert Harbage said via Facebook. "CMU was on the leading edge of innovation then, as well as now. I have no reservations about riding in a driverless car developed for/by Uber with the partners they have teamed up with."
But another Pittsburgh resident, Jamie Delaney, shared concerns about the experiment. "I've used Uber many times, but I'm not a fan of the self-driving car idea for the following reasons: I don't think from what I have read that the self-driving technology is perfected yet," Delaney said in an email. "I believe it is still unsafe.
"Also I feel that being an Uber driver is a decent job that can lift families out of poverty or employ mothers of young children part time and/or at odd hours," Delaney said. "There are so few jobs that pay decently and are flexible and open to most. Uber earns my positive regard for this reason, so I try to patronize them when possible. If Uber eliminates or drastically reduces drivers, that will no longer necessarily be the case."
Uber rides in the driverless cars will be free, AP reported, but don't expect this pilot-less program to come to your city anytime soon. Uber reportedly has "no immediate plans" to bring self-driving cars to other cities.
Aug. 22, 2016, 12:24 p.m. Eastern: This story has been updated.