The technology is being rapidly commercialized, though safety issues have yet to be settled.
Anyone who books an Uber in Pittsburgh in the coming weeks may discover that the person behind the wheel is also a passenger.
Uber will offer customers rides in robotic taxis within a matter of weeks or days. The company has been developing the technology for the past year and has been testing it on the streets of Pittsburgh. It will launch with about a dozen taxis, with the expectation of having 100 on the road by the end of the year. The taxis will have drivers who can take control in an emergency.
The trial highlights the remarkable speed with which the technology is being rushed to market, and it could play a key role in shaping both the public perception and government regulation of self-driving cars. This is especially true after a fatal accident in June involving a partially automated Tesla. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is currently investigating that accident (see “Tesla Crash Will Shape the Future of Automated Cars”). It will also be interesting to see how passengers and drivers react to the prospect of machines taking over what had become an easily accessible new job.