Last week Uber announced the testing stage of their self-driving cars is over, they will soon debut autonomous self-driving cars from Volvo for their customers in Pittsburgh USA.
The Volvo XC90 SUVs will be outfitted with sensors and cameras and will be offering free rides for passengers, the ride will however also include an Uber engineer who will sit in the front seat to monitor the car.
The partnership between Uber and Volvo signals Uber’s intention to be one of the first companies to utilise self-driving technology in their business and to get ahead of potential competitors like Google.
“Partnership is crucial to our self-driving strategy because Uber has no experience making cars,” Uber CEO Travis Kalanick wrote in a blog post. “To do it well is incredibly hard, as I realized on my first visit to a car manufacturing plant several years ago. By combining Uber’s self-driving technology with Volvo’s state-of-the art vehicles and safety technology, we’ll get to the future faster than going it alone.”
This next step is huge for Uber, after testing cars in their research facility to actually driving around real passengers, this signals a not-too-distant future where human Uber drivers are replaced by computers. Experts have already estimated that the cost of a ride could potentially drop by half.
Uber isn’t the only company to be working towards a fleet of self-driving cars, with Google and Ford also announcing they will have self-driving cars on the road by 2021.
The result of automated cars will change not only how your employees get to and from work, but how you travel abroad and how your products are shipped. A mechanic’s traditional expertise may become less valuable as fewer accidents occur and cars become more reliant on software.
The demand for truck and taxi drivers will reduce, but we could see an increase in workers needed to maintain the vehicles and manage the complex systems between them. Driverless trucks are already in use in some mines here in Australia, with the initial benefits obvious; driverless trucks can work 24/7/365, through the night, over Christmas, without taking a break.
It’s not just the auto industry that’s set to change the way it operates, airlines could potentially see a flow on effect as well. Domestic flights might suffer from people choosing the convenience of hopping in their self-driving car over the hassle of getting through the airport. Your own car is probably going to be a better experience than being squished into economy with hundreds of other people.
There are still some issues to be worked out around tax obligations with the sharing economy getting into full swing, and the rise of car sharing, not to mention who is at fault when driverless cars are involved in accidents.
It’s pretty clear that driverless cars are going a play a big part of our personal and professional lives, and if the companies buying in are correct, they are only about 5 years away. That’s 5 years to get ready for some major disruption to our traditional business models.