Tuesday, December 13, 2016

"Uber to put self-driving cars on the road in SF 'very soon'"

...Business Insider: How do you keep Uber’s driver partners excited about working for Uber when today’s announcement is that you’re one step closer to replacing them? I believe your engineering director said you’re trying to wean riders off having drivers.
Kalanick: The first part is that the timescale is pretty long. We’ve got income opportunities today and we got ways of serving the city today. That’s part 1.
Part 2 is that if you’re talking about a city like San Francisco or the Bay Area generally, we have like 30,000 active drivers. We are going to go from 30,000 to, let’s say, hypothetically, a million cars, right? But when you go to a million cars you’re still going to need a human-driven parallel, or hybrid. And the reason why is because there are just places that autonomous cars are just not going to be able to go or conditions they’re not going to be able to handle. And even though it is going to be a smaller percentage of the whole, I can imagine 50,000 to 100,000 drivers, human drivers, alongside a million car network.
I can imagine 50,000 to 100,000 drivers, human drivers, alongside a million car network.
So I don’t think the number of human drivers will go down anytime soon.
In fact, I think in an autonomous world, it goes up. In absolute figures. Of course, in percentage it’s down. But then you also think, what about the tens of thousands of jobs that are necessary to maintain that fleet?...
 -upon the announcement of autonomous vehicles in Pittsburgh
Business Insider, August 18, 2016

I guess we'll see, won't we.

From c|net:

The ride-hailing company appears to be readying dozens of autonomous vehicles to pick up passengers in the Bay Area.
On a nondescript street in downtown San Francisco, an unremarkable parking garage with dusty walls and painted-over windows seems like an abandoned warehouse.
Inside, however, it's a very different scene.

Row upon row of shiny self-driving cars await their moment. At first glance, they look like regular dark-gray Volvo SUVs and white Ford sedans. But they're decked out with rectangular sci-fi contraptions on their roofs. The Uber logo is emblazoned across their doors.

The garage is where the ride-hailing service houses a fleet of autonomous cars for San Francisco. The company hasn't said anything about when the self-driving cars will hit the road in California, but passengers in the city can expect to dial up one of these futuristic Uber cars "very soon," according to a person familiar with the launch. Uber plans to let San Francisco customers begin using the technology and get accustomed to it in the very near future, the person said.

Uber made its name by pairing passengers with drivers via a phone app. Over the past six years, it's grown from small startup to multinational company with operations in more than 400 cities in 72 countries. Now, Uber is going a step further, venturing into robotics and artificial intelligence with autonomous vehicles. Some of its self-driving cars are already in service in Pennsylvania.

"We're at the very beginning stages of becoming a robotics company," Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said at the Vanity Fair Summit in San Francisco in October. "As we move toward the future, autonomy is a pretty critical thing for us. It's existential."

Uber's self-driving cars, accompanied by a human driver, have been traveling on the streets of San Francisco for the last three to four months. The company has said the cars are being used solely to collect data for maps. Mapping streets is part of readying autonomous vehicles for the open road, so they can identify routes and learn to detect obstacles.

Uber isn't saying when it's going to roll out its self-driving cars to passengers in San Francisco. The company declined to comment for this story. But CNET has learned that Uber will officially launch the program on Wednesday; we also learned that Uber worked in partnership with Volvo to develop the self-driving cars.

As of September, Uber didn't have a permit to run autonomous cars in California. It's unclear if the Department of Motor Vehicles has since given the company a permit. The DMV didn't return requests for comment....MORE