Uber readies self-drive fleet

Johannesburg - Cab-hailing app Uber will allow users in Pittsburgh, US, to summon an autonomous car from their smartphone later this month.

Travis Kalanick, Uber CEO and co-founder, made the announcement of the company’s partnership with Swedish car maker Volvo for their project to transport Uber users in driverless vehicles.

READ: How to check your Uber passenger rating

Kalanick also announced that Uber had acquired Otto – a technology start-up “whose mission is to rethink transportation, starting with self-driving trucks”.

“Together, we now have one of the strongest autonomous engineering groups in the world; self-driving trucks and cars that are already on the road thanks to Otto and Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh,” Kalanick said on the Uber website.

"Anthony Levandowski, Otto’s co-founder, will now lead our combined self-driving efforts reporting directly to Kalanick - across personal transportation, delivery and trucking - in San Francisco, Palo Alto and Pittsburgh."

Much like local Uber promotions which saw rides with celebrities and electric sports car pick-ups, the lucky few who do manage to get a driverless vehicle in Pittsburgh will get their ride free of charge.

READ: Here's how to boost your Uber passenger star rating

Each self-driving vehicle is expected to have two drivers when the service commences, ready to take over the wheel in case of a mishap.

The vehicles - Volvo XC90 SUVs - will be kitted with cameras, GPS, radars and lasers; a total of 100 are expected to be operational in the Pittsburgh fleet by year-end.

“By combining Uber’s self-driving technology with Volvo’s state-of-the art vehicles and safety technology, we’ll get to the future faster than going it alone,” Kalanick said.

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