By Christofer Thrasher
Self-driving cars are the newest in technological advances and Uber, the ride-share service, is part of the trend. According to Bloomberg News, more than 1 million autonomous vehicles will be driving on our local streets as early as 2021.
Uber has rolled out autonomous vehicles in major cities across the United States. Uber began its technological jump forward in major cities like Pittsburgh and San Francisco, where members of the community were allowed to ride in a self-driving car.
The cars themselves look as if they came from the future, sporting big clunky machines that sit atop the car. Radars, lasers, GPS systems, and cameras are all included in the technology.
Bloomberg News reports that the goal is “to replace Uber’s … human drivers with robot drivers – as quickly as possible.”
Uber has more than 1 million drivers, which means there will be more than 1 million autonomous vehicles on our streets. And when this goal is completed, 1 million part-time and full-time jobs will also be taken off the streets. Uber drivers are everywhere and anywhere. Anyone can go to Uber’s website and become a driver. These autonomous vehicles could, in the near future, take the livelihood of these drivers from them.
David Lane, a teacher and the founder and president of Ingenuity Hub, Personalized Learning Collaborative in Leominster, is a part-time Uber driver. When asked about his feelings toward Uber and their long-term goal, Lane stated his feelings are “ambivalent” and that there is “no sense in wasting emotions over technology.” He says, “Technology will advance and those who can adapt with it will benefit the most. As an individual, I’m looking forward to self-driving cars. I think they’ll be safer overall.” He also mentioned that he would be appreciative of not having to take control behind the wheel.
While no one knows what city could be next for Uber’s testing of autonomous vehicles, Boston could be the next stop on the list. And from there, the cars could spread to the likes of Worcester, and eventually the surrounding cities.
Riders will not be alone yet, however. As of now, the cars are still being tested and will contain engineers who will have their hands close to the wheel, in case a problem should arise, for them to take over. A co-pilot who sits in the passenger seat takes notes for any faulty matters, will also be in the car for safety measures.
Some of the biggest concerns surrounding self-driving cars are safety. What happens if something goes wrong? You would hope that there is a backup plan and that the car performs properly. What happens when it is just the car, with no human to take over in the scenario where something could go wrong?
Lane stated that he is “not overly concerned” with Uber’s technology. “There is no perfect technology, and even AI [artificial intelligence] won’t prevent all accidents, but I think the self-driving car technology has the potential to be safer than human drivers.”
Safety is a huge concern when it involves any sort of vehicle. You always see car commercials stating the facts of how safe their car is compared to any other companies. Safety is at the forefront of people’s minds when it comes to getting behind the wheel of a car, but what about being in front or surrounded on the streets by driverless cars?
There are many possibilities of what could go wrong with Uber’s self-driving vehicles. What if the technological equipment malfunctions? Does the car automatically sense that it is shutting down and brake or does it continue to drive and possibly head off the side of the road? In the surrounding cities of Worcester, we have many locals who are commuters and will be driving in front of and behind these cars. There are many people who walk to and from their destination, which include j-walkers, bike riders, and those who tend to cross traffic during inopportune times.
As a whole, no one can say exactly when the official release of self-driving cars will be available to all areas of the country. But for now, keep an eye out because Uber could soon be in your city testing their cars on your local streets.