Uber is a San Francisco-based company that provides transportation delivery services around the world. You can order a taxi using a mobile app or placing your order on the Uber website. In 2017, the company is offering its transportation delivery services in 500+ cities worldwide.
On May 28, 2014, the Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick first told about the company’s intentions to create a fleet of self-driving vehicles on Code Conference in Southern California. In about a year and a half after that, Travis Kalanick confirmed his words about the company’s intentions to eventually switch over to self-driving cars.
In February 2015, Uber and Carnegie Mellon University created Advanced Technologies Center (ATG) in Pittsburgh. ATG operates creating technologies meant to be utilized in autonomous passenger cars and trucks, cartography and road traffic safety.
Uber Self-Driving Taxi Perspectives
Uber has put all the company’s efforts to create driverless cars. And its interest is rather obvious, as 80% of fares go to a driver and only a share of 20% – to the company. That’s why a no-driver practice will increase the company’s profits and decrease trip costs for passengers. Additionally, the company envisions that there will be no need to buy your own car in a long run, as it will be far cheaper to go by taxi than to maintain your own vehicle.
The Uber Company has a little advantage over other corporations working on the self-driving technology. Earlier, the company planned to switch to autonomous driving right after the technology was implemented. Today, insiders are talking about a gradual process. The first self-driving cars won’t be available on the market for private drivers. They will appear as public transportation means in certain cities along well-known urban routes. And that’s when Uber driverless vehicles will have a certain advantage.
The company has announced its decision not to produce their own self-driving vehicles having certain plans to cooperate with existing car brands. The main Uber’s automobile partners are Ford, Volvo, and Daimler. When exactly Uber started cooperating with Ford is unknown but the first Uber’s tests of driverless cars based on modified Ford were spotted in Pittsburgh on May 21, 2015. In this city, large-scale testing started on September 14, 2016, when 14 Ford Fusion vehicles equipped with a laser, cameras, LIDARs, GPS, and radar facilities invaded Pittsburgh streets.
The partnership between Uber and Volvo was announced on August 18, 2016. The companies stated they would spend $300 million together to create autonomous vehicles. On December 14, 2016, Uber started to test self-driving technologies employed in Volvo XC90 in San Francisco, CA. But since Uber’s cars were not formalized as driverless vehicles, Californian DMV forbade their usage on the roads a week later. At the beginning of March 2017, Uber received the approval from DMV and resumed testing their self-driving cars on the roads of San Francisco.
On January 31, 2017, it became known that Uber signed a contract with Daimler, the Mercedes mother company, giving Mercedes-Benz self-driving vehicles the right to work in Uber’s transportation delivery services.
On February 21, 2017, Uber brought 16 Volvo XC90s to Tempe, Arizona, to launch their testing on public roads.
On May 8, 2017, Uber declared its intentions to broaden the Advanced Technologies Group by creating a new research center in Toronto which would be engaged in Artificial Intelligence development for autonomous vehicles. Raquel Ertasan, an associate professor of the University of Toronto, a specialist in Machine Learning and Computer Vision, will become the manager of this center.
The former Google employees, Anthony Levandowski, Google’s leading specialist in LIDAR technology, and Lior Ron, the leader in Google Maps, founded their own company called Otto in early 2016. The company started specializing in autonomous technology for trucks.
In the middle of August 2016, Uber acquired Otto for $680 million. At that time, Otto employed about 90 people including engineers from Google, Apple, and Tesla.
At the end of October 2016, Otto presented a 132-mile journey of a self-driving truck along the highway within the Colorado State with no driver behind the steering wheel. This trip was entered into the Guinness Book of Records as “the longest continuous journey by a driverless and autonomous semitrailer truck.”
In February 2017, Google filed a lawsuit against Uber, claiming that Anthony Levandowski stole 14,000 files, a total of just a bit less than 10 GB. Google’s accusations are based on the fact that the LiDAR, used by Uber, is strikingly similar to Waymo’s LiDAR system.
On May 30, 2017, Uber fired Anthony Levandowski, also claiming in the court that it knew nothing of the stolen Google files.
Meanwhile, the driverless truck development went on. On June 29, Uber presented its new test autonomous truck Uber ATG. Changes affected the truck’s hardware including a new 64-channel rotating LiDAR system, updated sensors, as well as new software components.