In September, we introduced the world’s first Self-Driving Ubers to the Steel City. Three months later, we’re bringing Volvo XC90s to San Francisco. We’re incredibly excited to work with Volvo to pair our state-of-the-art self-driving technology with Volvo’s outstanding vehicle development and core safety capabilities.
Starting today, riders who request an uberX in San Francisco will be matched with a Self-Driving Uber if one is available. Expanding our self-driving pilot allows us to continue to improve our technology through real-world operations. With its challenging roads and often varied weather, Pittsburgh provided a wide array of experiences. San Francisco comes with its own nuances including more bikes on the road, high traffic density and narrow lanes.
The promise of self-driving is core to our mission of reliable transportation, everywhere for everyone. As demand for ridesharing continues to skyrocket, the future of transportation will be a mix of human drivers and self-driving cars.
We know that when people can get an affordable, reliable ride across town, things change for the better. Cities become safer, cleaner, more efficient and more affordable. Ridesharing also helps cut into automobile-related deaths and drunk driving. It complements public transit, getting people to places that aren’t well served by other forms of transportation. And by getting more people into fewer cars, we can reduce congestion and pollution in our cities over time.
Creating a viable alternative to individual car ownership is important to the future of our cities. And to get there, we need to fuse our ridesharing network with world class self-driving software and hardware.
Finally, we understand that there is a debate over whether or not we need a testing permit to launch self-driving Ubers in San Francisco. We have looked at this issue carefully and we don’t believe we do. Before you think, “there they go again” let us take a moment to explain:
First, we are not planning to operate any differently than in Pittsburgh, where our pilot has been running successfully for several months. Second, 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.
But there is a more fundamental point—how and when companies should be able to engineer and operate self-driving technology. We have seen different approaches to this question. Most states see the potential benefits, especially when it comes to road safety. And several cities and states have recognized that complex rules and requirements could have the unintended consequence of slowing innovation. Pittsburgh, Arizona, Nevada and Florida in particular have been leaders in this way, and by doing so have made clear that they are pro technology. Our hope is that California, our home state and a leader in much of the world’s dynamism, will take a similar view.
Also published on Medium.