Uber's Self-Driving Taxis Have Hit The Streets

Uber, the mobile ride-hailing service, has officially unveiled its newest pilot program in which people can take taxis that drive themselves. 

These self-driving cars are currently in a trial period in Pittsburgh, according to Futurism, but if all goes well, they will roll out across the nation.

Right now, these cars are only partially self-autonomous. An engineer will sit in front of the steering wheel and monitor the car's progress, making corrections and taking over the vehicle, if necessary. 

Only four self-driving cars hit the roads in Pittsburgh on Sept. 14. The Ford Fusions are randomly assigned to pick up passengers, and those who do enter the autonomous vehicle get their ride free.

The new program is the beginning of Uber's initiative to replace many or all of its 1.5 million drivers with  autonomous vehicles, according to Reuters. The start-up company is currently valued at $68 billion and has already changed the taxi world by allowing users to book a car with their smartphone.

The company will expand the project and is already building up its fleet of self-driving cars, purchasing 100 Volvo XC90 SUVs as part of a partnership with the car manufacturer, Recode reports. These cars will be revamped with the new self-driving technology and possibly be hitting the streets of Pittsburgh by the end of 2016.  

If all cars were to be replaced by this new technology, it could be a huge cash cow for Uber, which currently only brings in 20 to 35 cents of every dollar its drivers charge.

With the self-driving cars, the company could take home 100 percent of the fares. Not only that, but the cars will also be able to be on the road constantly, and would only need to stop to recharge. As a result, it could complete more rides in less time, earning Uber even more money.

This new initiative already has Uber drivers in a panic, worried that they will eventually lose their jobs to this new technology, reports Recode. Uber CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick, who debuted the project in 2014, isn't too concerned about the potential millions of lost jobs.

"Look, this is the way the world is going,” he said. “The world isn’t always great.”

Sources: Futurism, Reuters, Recode / Photo credit: Foo Conner/Flickr

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