Self-Driving Ubers: Convenient or an Accident Waiting to Happen?
Rideshare service Uber announced in early 2015 that it was working on self-driving cars. Earlier this year, the company admitted that it was testing cars in Pittsburgh. According to Techcrunch.com, it turns out Uber is making rapid progress on its plan to replace its one million-plus drivers with computers. It’s not just bad news if you are an Uber driver, but worse if you are a frequent passenger.
In a recent interview with Bloomberg, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick revealed that the company is preparing to add self-driving cars to its fleet of active drivers in Pittsburgh as early as this month. The company is getting ready to deploy 100 modified Volvo XC90s with self-driving equipment. Each vehicle will be staffed by one engineer who can take the wheel when necessary and a co-pilot to observe and take notes.
Uber punters in the city will have chance of getting an autonomous vehicle for their ride and if they do, their trip will be free. The company has said it will outfit cars with autonomous driving kits rather than develop its own vehicles like Google. Uber has partnered with Otto, a startup that launched this year to bring self-driving technology to trucks.
What about Safety?
We know these self-driving Ubers are going online sometime this month. But what do we know about how safe they are? How long have they been tested? In how many cities have they been tested? Has the testing taken place in diverse traffic, weather and roadway conditions? Have all the glitches been ironed out? As auto defect lawyers who represent victims of defective vehicles, we would be surprised if Uber has done its due diligence with the testing.
Our concerns continue to grow with recent reports of Tesla’s Autopilot failure. It is unacceptable, not to mention unethical, to use passengers as lab rats in an experiment with self-driving cars. In Uber’s case there are even more disturbing questions about liability issues. Who would be liable for a passenger who is injured in a collision while riding one of these autonomous vehicles? Uber needs to take a long, hard look and answer all these questions and more before embarking on this ground-breaking enterprise.