We weren’t sure how far away we were from commercially available self-driving cars or car service, but it sounds like Uber is speeding up the clock. The company has revealed plans to start trialing a self-driving rideshare service as soon as this month.
The tests will go down in downtown Pittsburgh, where users can request a ride from a self-driving vehicle alongside the normal options. The rides will be free, and they’ll always be accompanied by a human supervisor to ensure nothing goes wrong. As previously reported, Uber is putting to task Volvo’s XC90 vehicles for their efforts.
This news comes hot on the heels of an important acquisition made by the company. Uber has bought up Otto, a name which likely isn’t familiar to you, but when you hear who is behind this company — which is apparently worth up to $680 million — you’ll see why they did it.
Otto is a company which specializes in self-driving freight trucks. That may not sound like the sort of avenue Uber wants to get itself into, but we have a feeling the deal was more about the fact that 2 of Google’s former employees are heading the act.
One of those guys is actually the former head of the company that Google bought to get their self-driving car project off the ground. Anthony Levandowski, as he’s named, formed 510 Systems on the back of his work on a system for autonomous self-stabilizing motorcycles. Those efforts would go on to be the basis of Google’s self-driving car project after Google acquired them.
Fast forward to today, and both Levandowski and former Google Maps chief Lior Ron formed the company that Uber is buying today. The acquisition obviously puts Uber in a great spot to ensure they can prop their self-driving car efforts up without the help of anyone else, and perhaps this is their first bit of motion into other fields that they think warrant exploration. In any case, these inroads give Uber the potential to be the most significant player in the race to launching self-driving cars, and we can’t wait to see what happens from here on out.