What if you ordered a Uber car and when it arrived there was no driver? Would you get in? Apparently the folks at Uber do because they're investing millions in a fleet of 24,000 driverless Volvos and expects to roll them out in 2019.
On Monday, the company said that beginning 2019 the driverless Volvos will begin appearing on the roads in several American cities. They currently have test fleets in Pittsburgh, Phoenix and San Francisco.
“We’re moving aggressively,” said Jeff Miller, Uber’s head of automotive alliances. “As soon as the technology is ready there is a manufacturing machine that is ready to go and we can push the ‘make car button’ and we’ll have clear path to having tens of thousands of self-driving vehicles on the road."
Still, there will be plenty of Uber cars driven by humans on the road for the foreseeable future, Miller said.
“We have millions of drivers that operate on our platform every day around the world,” he observed. “There will always be a role for human-driven vehicles. You’re going to see a hybrid fleet of human and robot-driven vehicles.”
Is this where we're headed?
According to this article in The Guardian, Google, Uber, Tesla and the major truck manufacturers are looking to a future in which truck drivers will be replaced by automated vehicles that will save billions. They could cost millions of jobs, challenging the livelihoods of millions around the world. There are 1.7 million truckers in America, and another 1.7 million drivers of taxis, buses and delivery vehicles.
Nevertheless, in the U.S., the trucking and related industries have struggled with a serious shortage of CDL drivers as fewer younger people are choosing truck driving as their career, even as older drivers retire. The trucking industry says it now needs 50,000 truck drivers and will need 960,000 more over the next 10 years. So, the prospect of trucks that drive themselves might seem to be an easy solution.
In September, the Senate Commerce Committee took up the prospect of driverless trucks in a hearing, considering whether to include trucks in a Senate bill dealing with regulations and guidance for driverless cars.
Does that worry you? Getting behind an 18-wheeler that is driving itself?
Which would be scarier -- that, or getting into a Uber car with no driver?
Call me old fashioned, but I'm not sure I like the prospects of either.