Uber Partners with Volvo, Acquires Otto, for Self-driving Taxis in Pittsburgh

Volvos design for Ubers future fleet of self-driving cars

Taxi app Uber will launch its first public trial of self-driving cars in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, within the next fortnight.

The trial is part of a joint venture with carmaker Volvo, which is manufacturing the vehicles, built on its so-called Scalable Product Architecture.

The initial trials will be supervised by not just a driver, in case something goes wrong and they need to take the controls, but also a second observer. Nevertheless, presumably to assuage public fears about the safety of the technology, self-driving trips will be free for passengers during the trial period.

What this means for Ubers 1m-strong pool of drivers – who are technically self-employed, rather than working for the company directly – is still unclear. If these self-driving trials are successful, their future doesnt look too bright. However, in an interview with Business Insider, CEO Travis Kalanick denied that this move will reduce the number of human drivers.

“In fact, I think, in an autonomous world, it goes up,” Kalanick said, claiming that there will be places or conditions where self-driving cars will not be able to go on their own, requiring a human behind the wheel. He claims self-driving vehicles will allow Uber to expand its fleet exponentially, meaning the scale for this relatively niche demand will still be higher than its total number of drivers today – and requiring tens of thousands of people to maintain the vehicles, though notably this job will require a very different skillset to the one needed to become an Uber driver.

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