Uber is developing a driverless car that would remove the need for a driver, the American company confirmed on Thursday.
The app-based taxi service announced it has built a modified Ford Fusion hybrid and that it will be hitting the streets of Pittsburgh in the state of Pennsylvania to collect mapping data and test out its autonomous driving system.
Uber’s Advanced Technologies Centre is in charge of testing the car and is working in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University. Uber has promised there will be a driver in every autonomous vehicle in case the system fails.
Uber said in an official statement: ““Real-world testing is critical to our efforts to develop self-driving technology. Self-driving cars have the potential to save millions of lives and improve quality of life for people around the world.
“1.3 million people die every year in car accidents — 94% of those accidents involve human error. In the future we believe this technology will mean less congestion, more affordable and accessible transportation, and far fewer lives lost in car accidents.”
Google, which was one of Uber’s first major investors, is said to be displeased with the announcement. This is likely because Google is potentially building its own self-driving taxi service and because Uber is attempting to move away from using Google Maps.
Uber’s push into driverless cars is hardly surprising because removing the need for drivers altogether would make the company significantly more profitable – although that assumes the technology is ever competent enough to fly solo.
Uber lets the user hail a cab using a smartphone app and the fare is paid for digitally using a pre-added credit or debit card. It has come under fire from black cab drivers because Uber is typically cheaper.