Raymond Arke | Staff Writer
A city steeped in industrial history is becoming part of the technological revolution.
Ride-sharing service Uber will debut self-driving cars in Pittsburgh by the end of August, according to financial news magazine Bloomberg. Users of Uber’s mobile phone app will have a random chance of summoning a driverless car.
Uber has not let much slip about the launch yet. Uber spokesman Craig Ewer said more information is on its way soon.
“We’re excited about Pittsburgh and will have more information to share in the coming weeks,” Ewer said.
Currently, Uber is testing self-driving hybrid Ford Fusions on Pittsburgh roads, which feature a human riding in the driver’s seat. Uber’s website says the test cars feature an array of radars, sensors, lasers and cameras, which are used to map the city.
Uber struck a partnership with automaker Volvo earlier this year to develop driverless cars to add to the Pittsburgh fleet.
According to Bloomberg, there will be 100 such cars — Volvo’s XC90 SUVs — in Pittsburgh by the end of the year.
After a man died several weeks ago in a driverless car accident in Florida, Duquesne students have mixed opinions on Uber’s plan.
Justice Perry, a sophomore history major, is skeptical of riding in an automated car.
“I want to see how it works before I try it, because machines glitch,” Perry said. “I feel better with a person there … a person can manually take the wheel.”
Conor Skilton, a sophomore pharmacy major, is intrigued by the idea.
“Most accidents are human error,” he said. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports than in 2015, 94 percent of car crashes were a result of human mistakes.
Skilton said he would miss having someone in the car to engage with.
“I feel safe [with an autopilot], but the thing about Uber is developing a relationship with the driver, which could go away [with the new technology],” he said.
Jack Mason, business professor and director of Duquesne’s Entrepreneurial Studies program, believes Uber’s decision to introduce driverless cars is a smart one. He said that Uber has been setting a trend in its industry.
“Yellow Cab in Pittsburgh is abandoning their old business model and are going to switch over to a ride-sharing program,” Mason said.
Competitors of Uber will continue to play catch-up, as the ride-sharing company has been advancing technology in an attempt to beat Google and Tesla to the market.
Duquesne students are being taught to model their businesses like Uber.
Mason said Duquesne’s entrepreneurial program helps students be prepared for what he calls a “startup ecosystem.” The program lends each student $5,000 to pitch and create microbusinesses, which they run for the year. According to Mason, companies like Uber provide a good example for students to look towards.
“We prepare students to create business plans [like Uber’s],” Mason said.
He said that a self-driving program like Uber’s could be incorporated into these student projects.
“We had one student do a pharmaceutical delivery service,” Mason said. “That could easily be paired with what Uber is trying to do with automated technology.”
The company has been expanding their business to work with other companies in the technology field.
Uber’s CEO and co-founder, Travis Kalanick, announced in an August 18 press release that Uber had acquired a small tech startup called Otto which creates self-driving trucks.
“Together, we now have one of the strongest autonomous engineering groups in the world. [Cars] are already on the road thanks to Otto and Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh,” Kalanick wrote.