Self-Driving Ubers on the Road Within 18 Months Says CEO

Jan 24, 2018

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Uber had a tough 2017 with a rash of negative press that hung over the company like a dark cloud. But 2018 is shaping up to be a better year, and at Bloomberg’s #TheYearAhead event, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi shared some exciting news about the company’s self-driving cars.

Khosrowshahi said that he believes Uber will have autonomous cars “within the next 18 months.” And these aren’t just test vehicles, these are on the road.

“And not as a test case, as a real [use] case out there,” Khosrowshahi told Bloomberg editor-in-chief John Micklethwait.

Uber’s tested it’s self-driving cars in a few cities around the country but the most prominent use is in Arizona, where the state government has fully embraced the program. Khosrowshahi used the state as an example, where he said Uber would start “feathering in” autonomous cars with its regular fleet of vehicles that are manned by a human driver. Currently, test cars have a human in the driver’s seat in case anything goes wrong, but the next phase of the program would be to remove humans completely.

95% of the time you’ll get a human driver, especially if there’s something that the autonomous car can’t handle, like bad weather or an accident. But in those 5% of cases where everything lines up, Uber will send a self-driving car to pick up and transport you to your destination.

Fortunately for those weary about the technology, Uber will give you the option to say yes or no to an autonomous car.

“That 5% is going to go to 10%, 15% and 20% as our computers and algorithms learn more and more about what it takes to drive in a city in a real life situation,” said Khosrowshahi. “In five years, we will have the perfect driver in Phoenix.”

Uber will have to retrain that “driver” (a computer) in every single city, and it’ll take 10 to 15 years before we see mass use of self-driving Ubers.

The ride-sharing company has also been working on flying taxis — with Khosrowshahi remarking that the economics will make sense within five to seven years, when people will “think” about taking flying cars, and when the price will be brought down even more. Khosrowshahi also believes that children born today won’t need to learn how to drive cars, as autonomous technology will be prevalent by the time they reach legal driving age.

H/T: TechCrunch

Featured image by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images.

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