This will be the first time a self-driving car-sharing service has been brought to market. Since the technology is still being developed, the fleet will be supervised by humans in the driver's seat for the time being.
Currently, Uber is using a specially modified Volvo XC90 sport utility vehicle outfitted with cameras, lasers, radar, and GPS. Volvo is set to delivery 100 such vehicles to Uber by the end of the year. The two companies have signed a pact to spend $300 million to develop a fully autonomous car by 2021.
For now, Uber’s test cars travel with safety drivers, as common sense and the law dictate. These professionally trained engineers sit with their fingertips on the wheel, ready to take control if the car encounters an unexpected obstacle. A co-pilot, in the front passenger seat, takes notes on a laptop, and everything that happens is recorded by cameras inside and outside the car so that any glitches can be ironed out. Each car is also equipped with a tablet computer in the back seat, designed to tell riders that they’re in an autonomous car and to explain what’s happening.
“The goal is to wean us off of having drivers in the car, so we don’t want the public talking to our safety drivers,” Uber CEO Travis Krikorian says.
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