The driver-less car is no longer a thing of the future. The future is now. Many companies have been on the race toward this elusive goal, but this week Uber took a huge step in making it a reality.
Uber invited some of its most loyal Pittsburg customers to experience the first ever self-driving Ubers. Why Pittsburgh? Not a bad question. About a year and a half ago, Uber set up an Advanced Technology Center (ATC) in Pittsburgh to focus solely on the self-driving car. Today, they hit the road.
The cars are a beta test and still have a person behind the wheel, for safety precautions. The Uber employee behind the wheel typically just lets the car go on its own, but is there in case things get off course or need a bit of adjusting. Checking out the majority of the coverage on the rides shows that while it is pretty cool, there is still a long road ahead. The cars turn slowly, don’t understand some traffic lights, and are overall not totally ready to go on their own.
Uber was fast in releasing this street test of the self-driving cars, after last week’s announcement that Google’s awesome traffic-avoiding-real-time-updating app Waze was entering the ride share market. Google has been investing in research for autonomous vehicles since 2009, and while it owns a tiny portion of Uber (around 6%), the companies are racing for the market.
Right now Waze’s ride sharing features are available and growing in popularity in Isreal (where Waze was first developed), and being piloted in San Francisco. As a potential competitor to Uber and Lyft, the Waze ride sharing will be a bit different as they will not take a cut of the drivers’ earnings. Additionally, for passengers using the app, it costs around 54 cents a mile!
Google hopes to release the ride sharing feature to all Waze users this fall, as the first step in a plan to combine Waze with its self-driving cars in the future.
I can’t wait for these changes and think the competition will encourage both sides to move faster and make even more innovative steps! Will you be ready? Would you take a driverless Uber or do you prefer a good, old-fashioned human driver?