Uber to develop self-driving car technology

  • AFP
  • Updated: Feb 11, 2015 16:02 IST

The company that has risen to prominence for shaking up the taxi industry by automating hailing, paying for and sharing a cab now wants to do away with cab drivers, too.

Uber has announced a strategic partnership with Carnegie Mellon University that will see the two organizations create something called the Uber Advanced Technologies Center with the ultimate aim of developing autonomous driving technology.

The center will be located near Carnegie Mellon's Pittsburgh campus, meaning that Uber will be able to take advantage of the university's talent and capabilities.

"We are excited to join the community of Pittsburgh and partner with the experts at CMU, whose breadth and depth of technical expertise, particularly in robotics, are unmatched. As a global leader in urban transportation, we have the unique opportunity to invest in leading edge technologies to enable the safe and efficient movement of people and things at giant scale. This collaboration and the creation of the Uber Advanced Technologies Center represent an important investment in building for the long term of Uber," said Jeff Holden, Uber's Chief Product Officer.

Self-driving cars promise accident-free and congestion-free personal mobility. Research by independent US think-tank the Eno Center for Transportation shows that if only 10% of cars on the public highway were fully autonomous then 50% of crashes and their related injuries could be avoided.

Both Audi and Cadillac have set their sights on bringing the first truly autonomous driving features to their respective car ranges by the end of 2016. Likewise technology company Google believes it can get its own self-driving car ready before the end of the decade.

However, the truth is that although companies are making swift progress with the technology required, there are still so many obstacles to overcome in terms of reliability and affordability that self-driving cars will remain in the realm of James Bond films for at least another decade.

Even at Google where nothing is seen as impossible, the head of its autonomous driving project, Chris Urmson has set himself an ambitious deadline of 2024 for solving all of the outstanding problems that autonomous vehicles still have. And he's chosen that date partly because it will be the year in which his son will turn 16 and therefore old enough to drive.

Therefore don't expect to be using Uber's app to hail a self-driving taxi anytime soon.

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