How will they handle Lombard Street?
This summer Uber and Volvo teamed up to bring self-driving XC90s to the people of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Now the self-driving XC90 Ubers have landed in the tech capitol of the country, San Francisco. Uber and Volvo announced that the former's "self-driving pilot" is now available to customers in the City By The Bay. The self-driving XC90s cannot be ordered using the app. Getting one is random, and the cars are only available to users of UberX. Sorry, uberPOOL cheapskates.
Each autonomous SUV has an Uber technician riding in the driver's seat to ensure everything goes smoothly and to answer the multitude of questions passengers are sure to have. To see how the in-car experience works check out this promotional video released by the ridesharing company.
The XC90s are normal cars save for the self-driving hardware (check out the roof) and software that Uber installs. There's no word on how long the pilot program will last or how many self-driving cars are in Uber's San Francisco fleet. What also remains to be seen is how the state of California will react to Uber and Volvo testing self-driving cars in San Francisco. The California Department of Motor Vehicles is annoyed at the tech company for circumventing its autonomous vehicle testing permitting process. "Twenty manufacturers have already obtained permits to test hundreds of cars on California roads. Uber shall do the same," the DMV said in a statement.
Uber's blog post trumpeting the launch of the self-driving XC90s says that the rules, as they are now, don't apply to its pilot program. "The rules apply to cars that can drive without someone controlling or monitoring them. For us, it's still early days and our cars are not yet ready to drive without a person monitoring them," writes Anthony Levandowski, head of the company's advanced technology group. And as for Volvo? Well all they did was sell Uber the XC90s. The Swedish automaker should avoid any legal ramifications while getting to glean a ton of data and becoming recognized by millennials (and other UberX users) as the company with the self-driving cars. Sounds like an all-around win to us.