Take a ride through the streets of San Francisco today, and you may encounter something surprising – Uber’s new self-driving cars navigating through traffic. Uber, the popular low-cost car service app, has debuted a small fleet of self-driving cars that are causing controversy with the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Officials are concerned about the safety of self-driving car technology, which has been developed over the past decade by major tech companies including Google and Tesla. According to a statement released by the DMV, Uber failed to obtain the permits needed to test self-driving cars on city streets. The company obliquely criticized the state DMV by claiming the regulations regarding permits were slowing innovation. The company’s point of contention is that a driver and an engineer are present in the front seat of the car at all times and are monitoring the vehicle, and can manually operate it if the car encounters a situation that requires human intervention. Uber contends that since their cars are not “driverless,” the company should be exempted from the California restrictions on testing self-driving cars. The San Francisco Uber blog states, “…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.” After a successful test of self-driving Uber vehicles in Pittsburgh, Uber hopes to advance this new technology in San Francisco and beyond.
Most people have heard self-driving cars are a very real possibility in the near future. However, many folks might not realize exactly how near that day happens to be. For example, if you live in the city of Pittsburgh, that day is right now. This is because Pittsburgh happens to be the city where Uber decided to test a fleet of self-driving cars for consumers to use. This is a huge leap forward in automotive history. However, it appears the Pennsylvanian city wasn’t even interested in doing much to prepare for this landmark change.
Only the mayor and one police vehicle had ever seen a self-driving Uber car. It is also reported that police and fire services are unaware of exactly where and when these self-driving Uber cars will travel. However, this is exactly why Pittsburgh is getting the self-driving Uber cars. Bill Peduto, the mayor of Pittsburgh, recently said, “It’s not our role to throw up regulations or limit companies like Uber.” He continued, “You can either put up red tape or roll out the red carpet. If you want to be a 21st-century laboratory for technology, you put out the red carpet.” In other words, after self-driving cars become as common place as regular cars, Pittsburgh may be cemented in history as the city of transportation pioneers. The city will always be remembered.
What do you think about Pittsburgh’s decision? Would you visit Pittsburgh just for the chance to ride in a self-driving car? Let us know!
So far, Google has dominated the self-driving car industry. They’ve got over 70 cars registered with the California Department of Motor Vehicles, far more than their competitor Tesla, which had a mere eight cars registered as of this March.
But a self-driving car seemingly belonging to Tesla was spotted near Palo Alto recently, and interestingly enough, it was equipped with Lidar sensors.
In the past, Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk has stated that Lidar isn’t needed for self-driving cars, dismissing it as an unnecessary technology. This recent development makes it seem that he may be willing to reconsider that stance, and it’ll be interesting to see whether Musk revises his position in the future.
The car, a Tesla modal S, was spotted by a Tesla owner in Palo Alto despite the fact that it was apparently disguised to avoid looking like a Tesla test vehicle. In a blog post reporting his findings, the observant man wrote, “The Tesla self-driving test vehicle is disguised as cleverly as possible. A giant Stanford logo on the rear windshield and a Stanford license plate frame with a paper plate. Clearly, Tesla is trying to convince locals that this is part of a Stanford research project. Although Stanford is a very wealthy university, I doubt they would be using a brand new Model S for experimental purposes. My suspicions were confirmed that this was a Tesla corporate vehicle when I saw it enter the back parking lot of Tesla headquarters!”