Ride-hailing service Uber is taking on Google in the arena of self-driving cars.
The company opened an Advanced Technologies Center at Carnegie Mellon University, and residents of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, have reported seeing self-driving cars on the streets of the city. The cars are fairly easy to spot, with an array of scanners and cameras on the roof and obvious branding along the sides, and it appears that driverless taxis just moved closer to becoming a reality, according to The Times of India.
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Uber and Carnegie Mellon become research partners
“This vehicle is part of our early research efforts regarding mapping, safety and autonomy systems,” Uber spokeswoman Trina Smith said in an email sent to the Pittsburgh Business Times.
We could one day order ourselves a self-driving taxi with a few taps on our smartphone, which may seem like a great idea to the majority of people, with the obvious exception of current Uber drivers.
Uber has come under fire for poaching staff from Carnegie Mellon to work on its program, but now the two entities are describing their relationship as a “partnership.”
Significant benefits of driverless cars
Removing drivers from the cars would be a great advantage for Uber, and Brian Johnson, an analyst for Barclays, claims that the cost savings of self-driving cars could be significant. He estimates that a ride in a driverless car would cost just 34 cents per mile, almost 58% cheaper than traditional new cars.
The development of autonomous cars pits Uber against Google, which is one of its biggest investors. For its part Google has been working on driverless technology since 2010, and plans to release a commercially viable vehicle by 2020. Google has been in talks with Tesla about introducing driverless technology to its range of electric cars.
Although further details on the autonomous vehicles were not forthcoming, it is understandable that Uber wants to keep some of the relevant information to itself. Self-driving cars are developing rapidly and the sector could have serious implications for the automotive industry, as well as the taxi business. It is an exciting time for research into the field, and we can expect to see significant developments at an increasingly fast pace.