Uber autonomous car test in Pittsburgh

Uber autonomous car test in Pittsburgh

Heard on radio: Uber will be testing autonomous driving in Pittsburgh. Human driver backup. Partnership with Volvo.

It is my thought that the news stories about the new Uber autonomous fleet are repeating hype. I tried to dig into exactly what the articles said rather than what they implied.

All I can say for sure is that Uber says they will have cars equipped with some self-driving hardware in some state of completion later this month, and that there will be a human driver in the car also.

Bloomberg quotes Uber's CEU to say:

Kalanick believes that Uber can use the data collected from its app, where human drivers and riders are logging roughly 100 million miles per day, to quickly improve its self-driving mapping and navigation systems.

I don't see how an app that doesn't even know what lane the car is is will be able to make much improvement in navigation. Is it going to use an accelerometer to see how fast the turns are made? Sounds like more hype.

Silver2K | 18 August, 2016

this has been covered in another post. flagged :(

carlk | 18 August, 2016

It's a mad race to autonomous car. I wish Tesla wins simply because it's the only one that's doing it with electric car.

kevin | 18 August, 2016

If this is covered in another post, Google cannot find it.

Silver2K | 18 August, 2016

It's possible that person deleted the post. UNFLAGGED! :)

carlk | 18 August, 2016


"I don't see how an app that doesn't even know what lane the car is is will be able to make much improvement in navigation. Is it going to use an accelerometer to see how fast the turns are made? Sounds like more hype."

It does sound like a hype. It could collect no better data than Google or Waze already does and there there are way more Google or Waze app users out there. I fail to see how those kind of data would help program a self driving car.

johndoe | 19 August, 2016

There are articles explaining why it can collect the data.
Google the obvious 'volvo autonomous uber'

kevin | 19 August, 2016

@ johndoe I searched for those terms yesterday, and none of the articles I found addressed the question of how the AP would collect data.

jordanrichard | 19 August, 2016

The UBER Volvo's will for an undetermined amount of time, will have 2 UBER employees in the car. One in the driver's seat and the other in the front passenger seat.

When one calls up an UBER car, you will not know in advance if it is one of these specially equipped XC90's. If you see a XC90 with a bunch of stuff fixed to the roof, pull up to the curb, that will be an "autonomous" car.

Now if you thought the Taxi industry was upset about UBER, now UBER driver's are in the same boat as the taxi drivers.

carlk | 19 August, 2016


That is correct but Uber sees it that if they don't do it now it will be too late when others come in to do it for them. It just does not have a choice.

johndoe | 19 August, 2016

Did you see that they have multiple cameras, radar and lidar? DOT uk/sciencetech/article-3599338/Uber-s-self-driving-car-revealed-pictures-autonomous-Ford-Fusion-cars-tested-Pittsburgh.html
This is what they will use.

Silver2K | 20 August, 2016

it looks like a boombox on top of the car!

Detroit SuperCharger | 20 August, 2016

I wonder if this will escalate releasing the Tesla Fleet program or even level 4 autonomy.

carlk | 20 August, 2016

I think it's the other way around. Uber does not want anyone else to have it before it can switch to the driverless business mode. It will try very hard to get it out or else it's the entire business down the drain. On the other hand I don't think auto companies really want this to happen. People will buy way less cars when they can share cars. Uber may not hurt them that much but Tesla's shared mobility model will really hurt them. They are again in between rock and hard place.

johndoe | 20 August, 2016

It does not matter if Uber is out before Tesla.
An autonomous ICE service cannot compete with an autonomous EV service due to fuel and maintenance costs.
It is as simple as that.

Detroit SuperCharger | 20 August, 2016

@carl Good point. I've been wondering what pivot (if any) would make it possible for Uber to exist in 5 years. This still just seems like a band-aid on a jugular wound.

It will certainly be interesting to see how it all plays out. I believe while the fleet (of world cars) transitions to all electric (over the next several decades), there may still be a part to play for third party ride share services <- what that is exactly though, is anyone's guess.

It would be highly ironic of Uber to disrupt the taxi industry (a good thing), creating a ton of jobs only to potentially take them all away. So I think they have something else planned. Perhaps assist everyone that doesn't own a Tesla to become part of the "Uber Fleet" <- this seems likely. In this way, they'll cover all existing vehicles AND all forthcoming EV's, regardless of manufacturer.

However, Tesla clearly has multiple vertical integrations as a huge advantage here, even over and above all the incumbents. In the long run, nothing's going to beat free SuperChargers and your car literally paying for itself while you sleep.

Personally, living in the MItten, I'd love for them to put the GF2 here and unseat the unsightly, greedy, evil 3. Strategically I'm sure the next one won't even be in the country, let alone the continent though. Which is too bad, because I think the country and the world would see it as this rallying cry. The electric underdog jumpstarts the motor city. Especially after being shunned by the state. With the shear number of jobs created alone, Musk would finally be revered instead of reviled by the city that has fought so hard against him and his efforts.

Now I don't think any of that's actually going to happen, but it would be pretty cool if it did.

kevin | 21 August, 2016

I am really wondering how autonomous driving will ever get past the product liability issue.

johndoe | 21 August, 2016

Car companies can carry the liability along with insurance companies. Since autonomous cars will be safer than human drivers, the total liability is less. There are already car companies and insurance companies who are doing, or have announced that they will do, this.

carlk | 22 August, 2016

Yes autonomous cars can carry insurance just like human drivers do and the rate will be much lower. That's why many say insurance will be one of the industries to be disrupted by it.

nadurse | 22 August, 2016

Uber's play is that they will market to other OEMs and partner with them to provide autonomous vehicle and ride sharing tech. They are one of the companies leading the way in the autonomous vehicle industry. I doubt they plan to operate their own fleet of vehicles as that is against the existing Uber business practice of providing a service but pushing the cost of the hardware off to the individual. This is the other main reason that Uber is successful aside from excellent tech and R&D, they carry no fixed cost or liability cost of Uber vehicles.

carlk | 22 August, 2016


You got it all reversed. Uber is now in the survival mode. The infrastructure it got including the large driver base, which has been the barrier of entry for new comers, will be totally worthless when driverless shared ride from either Google, Tesla, Apple or anyone else comes out. Imagine why anyone would need to go through Uber when it could produce its own fleet of cars? All they need to do is to add some simple ride sharing apps.

You're also wrong about Uber does not have liability. It does provide insurance coverage when there is a passenger in the car or when the app is turned on. It has too since individual driver's insurance usually is void when the car is in commercial use.

carlk | 22 August, 2016

An example is Tesla to create an app for Tesla owners to put their cars into the rental/sharing mode and for Tesla to offer service of its own fleet in some cities as Elon already mentioned. Anyone who wants to get a ride or drive a Tesla car could just get one by using that app. There is no need for the middleman. Making autonomous cars is the hardest part. To share them is easy. There will be no value for Uber's system when that happens.

carlk | 22 August, 2016

I do want to commend Uber for willing to disrupt its own business instead of doing the minimal and hoping the new tech will go away like we see those auto companies do about EV. When you have to go all in it usually is too late and you don't have much chips left anymore.

carlk | 28 August, 2016

It's not just that I think Uber going into self driving car is for it's survival and it's playing catch up. This is what Kalanick thinks too. When asked if he thinks Uber will be tied for the first place in self driving technology this is his answer.

"Well, it's not about whether I think it is — it's that it has to be. So, if we are not tied for first, then the person who is in first, or the entity that's in first, then rolls out a ride-sharing network that is far cheaper or far higher-quality than Uber's, then Uber is no longer a thing."

David N | 29 August, 2016

Listening to the local news reports, they never mentioned that there will still be a driver in the car. Internet media reports stated that the driver will have his "fingertips" on the wheel at all all times.

It will be interesting to see how this unfolds.

jordanrichard | 29 August, 2016

Not only will there be a driver, but another UBER employee in the front passenger seat. Don't know why, but that is what a couple of the reports have said.

SamO | 29 August, 2016

Uber has several narrow ways to compete. Year 2016 cars will not be able to be retrofit with autonomous systems. Only new vehicles will be able to offer truly autonomous service.

Tesla can subvert the ownership/employee/independent contractor quagmire facing all rideshare models. They provide luxury green transportation on demand. Owner of car and Tesla share revenue depending on if you want your "own" car.