Even though it feels like Uber was just recently fighting to simply operate in many American cities—including Los Angeles—the ride-share company has become such a force that it’s rolling out driverless vehicles later this month.
Customers in Pittsburgh will be the first to try out the autonomous Ubers (researchers at the city’s Carnegie-Melon University have been innovating in the field of robot cars for years), according to the Wall Street Journal. Uber will send 100 Volvo XC90 SUVs to the city; a human employee will sit in the driver seat to make sure things go smoothly. How pricing and summoning will work has not yet been explained.
Uber’s deal with Volvo extends beyond the initial autonomous roll-out in Pittsburgh; the companies are working together to develop more driverless SUVs that, someday, will be available for purchase by consumers. Of course, even if they don’t manage to produce driverless cars for sale, they’re still poised to save money with the technology—no more paying all those drivers.
Meanwhile, Ford wants to introduce autonomous cars—sans wheels and pedals–in the next five years. Another company, called Ottomotto, is working on technology that would enable big rigs to operate without drivers; the idea is that autonomous vehicles would be safer on freeways than on densely-packed urban roads. We’ll see.