If you happen to be in Pittsburgh and summon an Uber, there is a chance a Volvo will show up as your ride. This is not an ordinary Volvo however. This Volvo is part of a new fleet of self-driving vehicles Uber will be using in The Steel City in an effort to eventually put more driverless cars on the road, as an integral part of the popular ride share program.
Uber teamed up with Volvo in a $300 million partner project to use modified sports utility vehicles from the automobile company as part of the pilot program. It is taking place in Pittsburgh since the city is home to Uber’s research facility on autonomous cars, and many of the researchers involved come from Carnegie Melon University, which is known for its robotics and technology departments. The program hits the street this month, and Uber hopes to have 100 self-driving SUVs in the city by the end of the year.
Once the program starts, Uber users will be picked at random and given the opportunity to agree to or decline the ride in the new SUVs, which are equipped with cameras, sensors, radar and a specified GPS receiver. There will also be a person in the driver’s seat, an engineer who will monitor and record how the car is operating so problems can be identified and corrected. The engineer will also be able to take over driving capacity in the event of an emergency. The Uber rides will be free for those who participate.
Some safety experts are concerned about self-driving vehicles being used for commercial purposes. Federal regulations have not caught up with the technology and are not uniform across the country. There are also questions on how the auto-pilot navigation system will operate and adapt to local roads, the city’s multiple bridges (an area that has been problematic), and changing weather conditions including snow and ice in the winter. In addition, while the driverless Volvo SUVs have not been involved in any accidents during the testing phase, last month a man was killed when the Tesla he was behind the wheel of, crashed into a tractor-trailer while on autopilot.
Uber, which has 600,000 drivers in the United States, hopes to implement more self-driving cars into the fold to reduce the cost rides to customers. The company is not stopping there, as Uber recently purchased the start-up company Otto, which has been making strides in the field of self-driving trucks. With these new programs, Uber continues to grow and become a mainstream option for commuters. With so many questions still unanswered about ride-share programs, situations can become complicated when an Uber vehicle is involved in an accident. If you have been injured in an accident involving an Uber driver, be sure to contact the skilled attorneys at Finz & Finz, P.C., today.