Despite uncertainty among critics, self-driving Uber cars are a good idea.
Uber is a mobile app that allows users to request transportation, like a taxi service. “Uber is the smartest way to get around. One tap and a car comes directly to you. Your driver knows exactly where to go,” according to the app’s website.
What happens, however, when the driver is a piece of computer machinery instead of a human being?
On Sept. 14, Uber released the self-driving car option in Pittsburgh, according to popular technology news outlet Futurism.
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The program is still in a testing phase, and an Uber employee monitors each “self-driving” vehicle to ensure that hiccups do not occur while actual passengers use the cars.
The Uber employee is a trained engineer with access to the car’s machinery and partially-automated systems. He or she also sits within reaching distance of the steering wheel in case an emergency maneuver needs to be made.
Self-driving cars are the future of public transportation.
Uber has already taken over the streets of America. With availability at all hours of the day and every day of the week, it is a preferable option for many people. The introduction of self-driving cars could increase that availability, improving on an already highly accessible service.
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Furthermore, the cost of transportation would decrease tremendously without having to pay a driver directly.
Jim Conigliaro Jr., the founder of the Independent Drivers Guild, has concerns about the introduction of self-driving Ubers, according to Market Watch. As the representative for many Uber drivers in New York City, Conigliaro is worried that self-driving Ubers may take valued jobs from current drivers.
While Conigliaro’s concerns are valid, Uber has ensured drivers that the changes will not result in a dramatic elimination of all driver jobs.
“Even when these technology issues are fixed, we believe ride-sharing will be a mix -- with rides provided by drivers and Self-Driving Ubers,” said an Uber spokesperson, according to Market Watch.
In fact, the need for vehicle “monitors” during the implementation stages of this project could increase the number of Uber employees worldwide.
Of course, many critics of the program say that the effort is extremely dangerous.
By contrast, highway safety officials believe that self-driving cars will increase traffic safety.
On July 6, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration chief Mark Rosekind said that self-driving cars would reduce the annual number of car accidents, according to NBC.
Rosekind said that 94 percent of car accidents are caused by human-error. The introduction of computer-operated vehicles could dramatically decrease that number.
The unfortunate, infrequent history of Uber-related deaths has detered some from taking advantage of the app. In Michigan, Jason Dalton was arraigned on six accounts of murder, according to USA Today. Dalton, an Uber driver, lured passengers into his vehicle in order to commit the murders.
Once the self-driving cars take full effect in Uber systems, passengers will have no reason to fear such instances when traveling without companions.
Overall, self-driving Ubers are an economically intelligent and safe innovation. It is only a matter of time and successful tests until the partially self-automated vehicles inhabit the streets of every major American city.