Uber’s CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has just announced that the company will launch self-driving taxis in the next 18 months, though they will initially only be used for a small number of rides.
At The Year Ahead trade fair in Davos, Switzerland, the CEO of Uber, Dara Khosrowshahi, told Bloomberg that self-driving vehicles should be in service in real conditions, not just as test cases, within the next 18 months, i.e. by summer 2019.
He did state, however, that during the initial launch phase – which should only last a few months – these taxis will only transport clients on a small number of journeys, as reported on website Phonandroid.com.
Phoenix: 5% of rides will be carried out by autonomous Ubers by 2019
"We will have autonomous cars on the road, I believe within the next 18 months. And not as a test case, as a real case out there," claimed Dara Khosrowshahi. An ambitious goal, but one which will initially only apply to a small proportion of rides, as first they need to accurately map all of the roads that will be taken by the self-driving vehicles.
Tests are currently underway in Phoenix, Arizona (United States). During the launch phase, the autonomous taxis will only be used for around 5% of rides, while all other journeys will be completed by human drivers. Uber’s CEO specified that users would be given the choice between a real driver or an autonomous vehicle, and that the self-driving vehicles would probably not be used in difficult weather conditions.
An ambitious but long-term endeavour
This announcement follows the signing of a partnership between Uber and Nvidia at the 2018 CES trade fair, where a prototype for a flying Uber taxi was also presented. An ambitious project, but one which will gain momentum in a few years’ time: “In five years, we will have the perfect driver in Phoenix,” said Dara Khosrowshahi. A prediction that is likely to come true a few years later in France.
Though self-driving technology is constantly improving, the road is still fraught with many pitfalls for Uber: in addition to its internal problems and the cover-up of the stolen user information scandal, the American company is being sued for industrial espionage by Waymo, a subsidiary of Google that specialises in autonomous driving. Its highly competitive prices in the future – as there will no longer be any drivers to pay – will no doubt cause an outcry among Uber’s competitors, who are already accusing the company of disloyal competition.
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