Speaking at Bloomberg’s #TheYearAhead event in Davos, Switzerland, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said that the company is gearing up to roll out self-driving cabs for passengers to ride, by around mid-2019.
“We will have autonomous cars on the road, I believe within the next 18 months,” Khosrowshahi said. “And not as a test case, as a real [use] case out there.”
— Bloomberg (@business) January 23, 2018
However, that’s not to say that every Uber cab will be self-driving; instead, the company will likely send autonomous vehicles for a small number of rides that it’s fully confident that its self-driving cars can handle. Khosrowshahi gave the example of handling a ride in Phoenix, saying that in 95 percent of cases, where mapping isn’t sufficient or weather is difficult, it’ll send a car with a human driver – but in 5 percent of cases, an autonomous vehicle will be up to the task, and be sent out instead.
He added that the plan is to improve that figure from 5 percent to 100 percent of trips over the next several years, and that Uber users will be able to choose whether they want a self-driving car or one with an actual driver.
That’s optimistic, given that Uber is still in a major legal tussle with Google spinoff firm Waymo over having stolen trade secrets; the battle has been raging since last February. Ahead of the trial, Waymo has sought $2.6 billion for just one of several such secrets, and last month, courts revealed a 37-page letter of allegations against Uber from a former employee, highlighting numerous forms of misconduct, including ousted CEO Travis Kalanick’s involvment in the theft of Waymo’s tech know-how. Losing the case could put a spanner in the works for Uber.
Still, it’s interesting to hear how a major mobility firm like Uber is approaching the challenge of introducing self-driving vehicles onto our streets. The company has been testing its vehicles in San Francisco, Pittsburgh, and most recently, Arizona. As someone who’s hoping to never have to own a car in their lifetime, I’m happy to keep an eye on Khosrowshahi & Co. to see if they can make good on their promise.
Pssst, hey you!
Do you want to get the sassiest daily tech newsletter every day, in your inbox, for FREE? Of course you do: sign up for Big Spam here.