Uber's self-driving cars have spent a few weeks in Pittsburgh for its autonomous ridesharing test run, but multiple reports indicate the cars have run into quite some rough patches, lurching into a few accidents.
In a video posted on Facebook, a self-driving Ford Fusion is seen making a turn onto a one-way road. Luckily, all self-driving cars are accompanied by a man behind the wheel should blunders of this nature occur. The driver likely took assumed control of the car and made a U turn down the intersection.
Fortunately, no accidents or serious harm came from the incident, though it did make make strong implications: first, self-driving cars, as it stands today, still can't supplant human drivers behind the wheel. Second, the team behind the driverless service was only able to strategically map out a limited area inside Pittsburgh. If the geography was carefully engineered, and yet, snags still occurred, it's safe to say that Uber's driverless ride-hailing service still has heaps to iron out, if it plans to go large-scale.
The erring Uber previously mentioned isn't the only case documented. Quartz reported that on Sept. 24, an Uber driver along with two passengers spotted another self-driving car and a second car pulled at an intersection. A man was inspecting the second car, which hazard lights were on. While no serious accidents occurred, the driver who spotted the scene noted that "there's no reason for a self-driving Uber car to be pulled over in the way that it was, with another car right behind it with its flashers on."
By far, Uber has only officially vouched for one incident with its self-driving Ford, whereby another car scuffed an Uber driverless car's fender. Uber remarked that it was an incident at the "lowest level" but it wasn't able to clarify whether the car was in autonomous mode at the time of the incident. The company doesn't have any record pertaining to a driverless Uber car erroneously heading down a one-way street.
At a $68 billion valuation, Uber is the most valuable startup, and the trial run currently making its rounds in Pittsburgh is its first attempt to introduce and market driverless technology for its ride-hailing service.
Uber is riding high on its self-driving cars since it forebodes an inflection point in its economics: having driverless cars means having no drivers to pay. If the trial run proves to be successful, Uber can tap a massive cost-cutting opportunity should drivers be erased from the equation. As a continuation of its self-driving efforts, it plans to add 100 Volvo SUVs in the future.
In August it was reported that the company lost $1.27 billion in the first half of 2016. Gautam Gupta, Uber's head of finance, told investors that a major part of Uber's losses is because of driver subsidies, which the company gave a hefty amount in order to keep the price for using the ride-sharing service affordable to users.
Photo: Foo Conner | Flickr