The ride-sharing company Uber is reportedly on the verge of launching its own self-driving cars. The company is said to be planning the purchase of 100,000 cars just for this initiative.
According to reports, the company has been plotting to get rid of its drivers. They have been experimenting with self-driving vehicles since last year, and the 100,000 units they intend to buy are seen as the first step in the project.
Sources are saying that Uber has gotten quotes for the Mercedes S-Class vehicles, reportedly costing the company around $11 billion. However, that would not be the only expense; the aforementioned car model is not fully self-driving, and modifications would be needed.
— Autoblog.com (@therealautoblog) March 22, 2016
Insiders are saying that the company has a research facility dedicated to their plan. Some rumors claim that the company is set to launch their self-driving cars by 2020. A source close to Uber also said that Mercedes was chosen by the company because they have been testing their semi-autonomous driving technologies for some time now.
The specific Mercedes car model mentioned includes adaptive cruise control, active lane change assist, active brake assist, active blind spot assist, evasive steering, and lane keeping assist. Although the cars are not fully self-driving vehicles, they help in avoiding crashes and high-speed accidents, which are feared in autonomous transportations.
Accordingly, the main reason for the company’s switch to self-driving cars is to cut the most expensive business factor, which is its drivers. Along with that are the complaints and legal issues that the company is facing concerning their employees as well.
— Android Headlines (@Androidheadline) March 20, 2016
Sources are also saying that Uber is concerned about reports that General Motors is investing in their closest rival, Lyft.
This is not the first time that Uber has been rumored to be working with autonomous vehicles. Last year, Tesla investor Steve Juvertson said in a statement that Uber CEO Travis Kalanick told him that if by 2020 the Teslas are autonomous, he would buy them all.
Lyft and General Motors partnership to launch car-rental program aiming to attract, motivate drivers https://t.co/scuS6RgwGM
— Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) March 15, 2016
Aside from Mercedes, other car manufacturers working on technologies for autonomous or semi-autonomous cars are Volkswagen, Daimler, Bosch, and Continental. However, auto industry executives are said to be wary when it comes to making deals with newcomers from the technology and software business, as they do not have enough experience regarding the venture on autonomous vehicles.
Autonomous vehicles have been experimented with by Google the longest. It has tried to introduce a prototype for years now, although they have shifted their directions many times. Also, there are legal hurdles such as present legislations that make it compulsory for qualified drivers to be inside the vehicle. Google has been convincing U.S. legislators to pass new laws encouraging the makers of self-driving cars to test their vehicles on the roads.
Google gets patent for bus detection on autonomous vehicles pic.twitter.com/soQQDeT8SH
— Autoblog.com (@therealautoblog) March 15, 2016
Another problem that has surfaced is the question of liability in the event of an accident. Since there is no driver and only the passenger would be able to contact law enforcement officials in such cases, it is being pushed that a person should be behind the wheel and not a computer.
Just this February, U.S. vehicle safety regulators have allowed driverless cars to be driven around the city by having an artificial intelligence system piloting the vehicle. The AI is then considered to be the driver under federal law.
Google taking responsiblity for its self-driving car’s crash raises questions on the future of autonomous vehicles https://t.co/eNHomEcSOZ
— Newsweek (@Newsweek) March 5, 2016
Analysts are saying that a $25 billion market for automated driving technology is being projected by 2020. It has been noted that vehicle intelligence has become a key “differentiating factor.” However, self-driving cars are expected to hit the road by 2025 or 2030.
Uber has yet to comment on the reports.
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