Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber CEO, recently stated he’d like to see fully driverless taxis serving pay customers by mid-2019, reports WESA 90.5’s Megan Harris.
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The CEO, who took over the car driving service in August, announced the goal to Bloomberg News during an economic forum he attended at the #TheYearAhead event held in Davos, Switzerland.
Khosrowshahi said Uber would probably send self-driving cars for a minimum amount of short trips through areas that are well mapped on days when the weather is good. That might be just 5 percent of Uber’s rides, according to Khosrowshahi, but the company would increase that number to 100 percent during the next several years. Customers would have the option of riding with a human driver or to travel driverless when they order a ride.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) and the state Department of Transportation were not aware of Uber’s 2019 goals until Khosrowshahi’s announcement, according to the agency’s spokespeople.
Nils Hagen-Frederiksen, a PUC spokesperson, stated Uber is complying with all of the relevant motor vehicle laws, “as far as they know of.” Following these laws is required for a for-profit transportation company like Uber to operate in Pennsylvania.
While Uber’s 2019 goal might be news to some, but the idea of driverless cars has been around for a while.
In September, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) put out guidelines to help states that were having trouble deciding how to govern driverless vehicles. The report was open to idea of automation, and noted that self-driving cars would, “one day, handle the whole task of driving when we don’t want to or can’t do it ourselves.”
At this moment, Pennsylvania law requires, “that a person is behind the wheel of a vehicle on the road,” said PennDOT spokesperson Rich Kirkpatrick.
Kirkpatrick told WESA by email that PennDOT, “supports legislation being considered in the General Assembly that would allow for higher levels of automated vehicles on roads in Pennsylvania, as well as appropriate provisions in legislation to ensure the safety of the general public, while containing sufficient flexibility to ensure that innovation can continue.”
Self-driving cars are not new in Pittsburgh, however. Uber debuted a small fleet of them in September. The company believed the Steel City was the ideal to practice given its traditional city grid, diverse topography, oft-changing weather, near-constant construction and numerous tunnels and bridges.
“We like to call Pittsburgh the double black diamond of driving,” Uber Advanced Technology center director Raffi Krikorian told WESA at the time. “If we really can master driving in Pittsburgh, then we feel strongly that we have a good chance at mastering it in other cities around the world.”
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