Uber is making headlines again. This time, after the long race to launch the first driverless taxi service, the company succeeded, announcing a deployment of driverless taxis, ready to use in Pittsburgh, PA. For the new driverless service, Uber paired with Volvo who will provide their new XC90s to ferry customers.
Uber’s move has seen them beating tech giants, like Google and Tesla, to be the first to deploy driverless cars to the public. Uber's new service puts additional pressure on the Google X team who have done a lot of work in the field but are still failing to commercialize their driverless vehicles. Elon Musk and Tesla are moving in the right direction, with plans to allow Tesla owners to generate income by giving a lift to people and return the investment. However, the company is busy working on its Model 3 and is still recovering their reputation after a deadly accident caused by their Autopilot malfunctioning.
The good news for competitors, though, is that the new Uber service may sound revolutionary, but in fact, it's not even driverless, with an uber driver having to be present in the car as a supervisor. This gives Google and Tesla additional time to flex their tech muscles, as it will be years until a fully autonomous service will be safe to use and regulations to be put in place. A collaboration with Volvo is a shiny marketing move for both brands, to show the world their advanced vision of the future of transport. Considering that Volvo is famous for its strong focus on safety, Uber has every chance to win customers' trust this way. It is unlikely that XC 90s will shape the entire taxi line, due to the high cost of each vehicle and the partnership is not exclusive, with Uber having already acquired Otto, a driverless vehicle startup.
Even though the launch of a 'driverless service' still requires drivers to be in the car, long before the launch, Uber faced negativity among drivers, who expressed concerns over potential job losses. New York drivers, however, seem to have no fear over driverless transport. According to the NY Daily News, interviewed taxi drivers said that New York isn't ideal for the driverless vehicles that will be rolling out on the streets of Pittsburgh. One of the drivers said that 'rough and tumble riders are too busy for cars that will have to move gingerly through city streets.' Uber spokesman, Matt Wing then commented that 'the project has an incredibly long timeline and there are no plans to make changes in New York anytime soon.'
In order to support a traditional taxi industry, Massachusetts has already proposed a tax legislation for 'ride-hailing' services that include Uber and Lyft. A new regulation suggests a 20 cents tax, where 5 cents would go to taxis, another 10 cents would be spent on the well-being of towns and cities, and the last 5 cents would be saved for the State Transportation Fund. Taxi providers will be banned from raising taxi fees for their customers to pay the tax. However, if Uber eliminates drivers from its cars and becomes autonomous, then the company would be automatically exempt from the tax category, meaning that such a law is an unintentional encouragement for Uber to get rid of drivers.
Disruptive technologies can't exist without pitfalls and challenges. The idea of mass producing driverless vehicles is outlined in many business plans today, but no one expected them to be released on the roads this fast. Uber is officially the first to deliver the driverless service, but it is also the first to face responsibility if something goes wrong. There are still a few years until we can see fully autonomous cars, but for now congratulations to Uber with its innovative marketing move.