Uber is one of the many companies working on self-driving car technology. The company envisages a future where its ride-hailing service is backed up by a fleet of autonomous cars that don’t need drivers behind the wheel. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is bullish on self-driving cars, some might say he’s being overly ambitious about them because Khosrowshahi sees self-driving cars picking up Uber passengers in 18 months.
Speaking with Bloomberg Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait at The Year Ahead 2018 conference in Davos, Khosrowshahi said that We will have autonomous cars on the road, I believe, within the next 18 months,” adding that “Not as a test case but as a real case out there.”
Uber, like many other countries, has been testing its self-driving cars on public roads in several cities across the United States. Its self-driving cars have racked up countless miles as the company continues to work on the technology to improve it further.
The company is already conducting a pilot program in which it sends some self-driving cars to customers who hail a ride in Tempe, Arizona. However, the cars have a safety driver behind the wheel and an Uber engineer in the front.
He does mention in the interview that “true autonomy for every single use case is some ways away,” so it’s clear that the CEO is cognisant of the challenges that still remain before self-driving cars become ubiquitous.
Perhaps his comments suggest that Uber is going to expand its pilot program to more cities across the country. There are significant legal and regulatory hurdles that have to be crossed before fully autonomous cars can roam free on roads without a safety driver. Until that happens, we can expect Uber’s self-driving cars to always have someone behind the wheel, even if they’re just there to keep an eye on things.