Uber’s self-driving cars are now set to arrive in the streets of San Francisco. As of Wednesday, San Francisco has become the second place in the United States where Uber’s driverless car service has become available, according to Mike Isaac of the New York Times.
As the New York Times also reports, Uber’s self-driving car service made its first test-run in Pittsburgh earlier this year. Both Pittsburgh and San Francisco hold special significance for Uber.
Uber’s Advanced Technology Center is located in Pittsburgh, and the company itself was originally founded in San Francisco back in 2009. Uber, which is often described as a “ridesharing service,” makes it easy for passengers and drivers to find one another with the help of an app. Uber has become quite popular since it was founded seven years ago.
According to the New York Times, the inception of Uber’s self-driving car service in San Francisco will also mark the premiere of the new, autonomous Volvo XC90 SUV. The Volvo XC90s, which are said to be able to carry a total of three passengers, according to the New York Times, will come equipped with a form of technology known as LIDAR. With LIDAR, the vehicles have the aid of “cameras” and “lasers” to help guide them on their travels.
“It also marks the debut of the XC90 self-driving car, a Volvo sport utility vehicle outfitted with lidar, a kind of radar based on laser beams; wireless technology; and seven different cameras.”
Per Brian Solomon of Forbes, a pair of Uber employees will, in fact, be in the front seats to keep an eye on things. According to Solomon, this was the case with the Pittsburgh test-run as well. If necessary, the human driver will take over, which might call into question how “autonomous” they really are.
“Just like in the Pittsburgh pilot, two Uber employees will sit in the front seats to monitor and take control of the car when needed.”
Though it appears that some of the kinks are still being worked out, self-driving cars are becoming a reality. In a blog post on Uber’s website, Anthony Levandowski, head of Uber’s Advanced Technology Group, discussed Uber’s self-driving car program arriving in San Francisco. He also wrote of some of the positives that autonomous vehicles may be able to provide.
“The promise of self-driving is core to our mission of reliable transportation, everywhere for everyone. As demand for ridesharing continues to skyrocket, the future of transportation will be a mix of human drivers and self-driving cars.”
Levandowski also elaborates on the benefits of ridesharing. He claims that by getting more passengers “into fewer cars,” it serves to “cut into” the problem of “automobile-related deaths and drunk driving.” Levandowski also explains how it helps cities become cleaner, and it can help reduce the issue of pollution over time.
According to Steven Overly of the Washington Post, the rollout of Uber’s self-driving car service will start out rather slowly. Moreover, the opportunity to ride in a driverless vehicle will only be afforded to Uber passengers “who have a credit card tied to a San Francisco address.”
In the Washington Post article, Overly also points out another potential roadblock. Per the Washington Post, California law requires companies to first obtain a permit and “clear additional hurdles” before testing a driverless car. According to the Washington Post, Uber has not obtained such a permit on the basis that their vehicles do entail “human monitoring” and therefore do not technically meet the definition of an “autonomous vehicle.” It remains to be seen if the state of California will agree with Uber’s assessment, however.
“Uber declined to obtain a permit on the grounds that its cars require human monitoring and thus do not meet the state’s definition of an autonomous vehicle. California regulators may not agree with that assessment, the company acknowledged Wednesday.”
In addition to Uber’s self-driving car service coming to San Francisco, there has been plenty of other news regarding driverless vehicles in recent months as well. Just last week, in the state of Michigan, governor Rick Synder signed legislation that put regulations into place for “the testing, use, and eventual sale of self-driving cars,” according to Danielle Muoio of Business Insider. Michigan is also the first state to establish such regulations, per Business Insider.
It was recently revealed that Google’s self-driving car service will now be called Waymo as well, according to the New York Times. Back in October, the Inquisitr also reported on Tesla’s announcement that all of their new vehicles would be equipped with self-driving technology (though full autonomy won’t be enabled until a later time.)
While the argument is that autonomous cars will be safer and more efficient, some will undoubtedly still prefer to get behind the wheel themselves. Regardless of how one might feel about it, Uber’s self-driving car service expanding to San Francisco, and other related driverless car news, is certainly a sign that the future has arrived.
[Featured Image by Carl Court/Getty Images]