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Transportation Robotics

Uber's Self-Driving Cars Are Now Picking Up Passengers in Arizona (theverge.com) 122

Almost two months to the day after Uber loaded its fleet of self-driving SUVs into the trailer of a self-driving truck and stormed off to Arizona in a self-driving huff, the company is preparing to launch its second experiment (if you don't count the aborted San Francisco pilot) in autonomous ride-hailing. From a report on The Verge: What's different is that this time, Uber has the blessing from Arizona's top politician, Governor Doug Ducey, a Republican, who is expected to be "Rider Zero" on an autonomous trip along with Anthony Levandowski, VP of Uber's Advanced Technologies Group. [...] Starting today, residents of Tempe, Arizona, can hail a self-driving Volvo XC90 SUV on Uber's ride-sharing platform. All trips will include two Uber engineers in the front seats as safety drivers, in the event a human needs to take over control from the vehicle's software. Uber says it hopes to expand the coverage area to other cities in Arizona in the coming weeks.
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Uber's Self-Driving Cars Are Now Picking Up Passengers in Arizona

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  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Wednesday February 22, 2017 @10:19AM (#53910963) Homepage

    All trips will include two Uber engineers in the front seats as safety drivers

    Google has also done this several times as a PR stunt without the taxi fare, they let a legally blind man ride with them back in 2012. I would imagine the fare is pretty irrelevant anyway when you have an expensive test vehicle and two engineers to pay. So what's really new here that hasn't already been done 5 years ago? Is there any reason to believe that in 5 years it'll be any different? I understand it's difficult, but I'm getting tired of the hype that self-driving cars are right around the corner. Two safety drivers on every ride isn't exactly self-driving. Any bets on when you can actually get into the back of a self-driving car with no helpers, no license and have the car drive? I'm starting to guess 2030+ while like totally being just "a few years out" all the way...

    • by tsqr ( 808554 )

      I'm getting tired of the hype that self-driving cars are right around the corner.

      They ARE right around the corner. But the corner is years down the road.

    • by TheMeuge ( 645043 ) on Wednesday February 22, 2017 @10:29AM (#53911003)

      I happen to both like driving AND like the option of having the car take over if I'm tired etc.

      Cars are a unique instrument because of the degree of freedom they provide. My big concern is that the advent of self-driving cars will be used by the state to heavily infringe on those freedoms.

      My sense is that within months of approval of this technology for mass market use, it will become mandatory, and within a few years after that havens of the nanny state will prohibit humans from driving.

      All in the name of public safety of course. The cars will be monitored, tracked, and subject to stop on order from advice at any time.

      Tell me this isn't the future.

      • by Rob Y. ( 110975 )

        They don't need to outlaw human drivers. If self-driving, hailable vehicles become widespread, far fewer people (vanishingly few?) will bother owning cars themselves - at least in locations well served by the Ubers. Why deal with expense, maintenence, insurance, parking, etc. once you can have a more convenient experience hailing a robot? Especially if competition brings the price of hailing a robot down.

    • by j-beda ( 85386 )

      Google has also done this several times as a PR stunt without the taxi fare, they let a legally blind man ride with them back in 2012. ..... So what's really new here that hasn't already been done 5 years ago?

      They are charging the rider for it?

  • Somebody here has probably done the math. Does it really make sense economically for Uber to get 100% of the cost of a ride this way but having to spend money to buy main, maintain and insure cars? Or is this another sign of a company that doesn't know what it is doing, perhaps most recently suggested by the recent charges of sexism and sexual harassment?
    • There will be a point where it will be cheaper to just run "one" driver, replicated millions of times, instead of paying millions of drivers, yes. It might not be today, but eventually the two lines on the cost chart will cross.

      As for maintenance on the cars, I expect Uber to wait until this technology is in most cars, and then they'll still "borrow" your car, so that you'll still be responsible for insuring, maintaining, etc. You'll just get a vastly reduced rate than Uber drivers do today, since Uber jus

      • Also, selling self driving cars to people is the end game. Getting them on the road as taxis is a stepping point to get public trust. Volvo might be selling Uber on a plan that exists briefly between public mistrust of the tech, and cities using self driving cars the way bike sharing works now.

        Uber is planning on selling its platform as the road tested solution to hailing digitally, regardless of who owns the cars. So at worst it advertises the product, for which uber provides the service. If they own a fle

        • by Rob Y. ( 110975 )

          Why would you want to own a self-driving car if self-driving taxis make the experience of hailing one comparable? Unless you actually like driving (I do), looking for parking (I don't), taking the thing in for service and fill-ups (nobody does), and paying for insurance (anybody?).

          • That depends on whether you can turn the self-driving feature(s) off, I think. It may be useful to have one if you like driving sometimes, but can just tell it to park somewhere. It may be that people want specific features that may not be available in all self-driving taxis, or want to have more emergency stuff around for longer trips.
        • Also, selling self driving cars to people is the end game. Getting them on the road as taxis is a stepping point to get public trust.

          I think you have this backwards. I admit I'm only one data point. BTW, I have never used Uber/Lyft, and have only been in a taxi once in my life AFAIK (maybe I was when I was too young to remember).

          I will gladly give up my car if/when I can get cheap driverless Uber.. i.e. point to point transportation NOW (or very very close to it).

          If the cost over a year is less than tha

      • they will sub out the cars so the rider is the renter and uber get's out of needing any insuring and if the car crashes then the renter get's hit with lot's of junk fees.

      • I don't think they can actually reduce the amount they're giving you all that much; if they want people to sign up for this, they have to at least cover gas costs (people who put thought into it will also want them to cover depreciation on the car, of course, but many people won't think of that or care).
    • by Sloppy ( 14984 )

      Does it really make sense economically for Uber to get 100% of the cost of a ride this way but having to spend money to buy main, maintain and insure cars?

      If you hypothesize that robot drivers can really do the job sufficiently well, the conclusion is an extremely strong and obvious yes. Taxis, limo services, etc are already viable business models even when you have all those same expenses plus a driver to pay. Remove the driver expense and it only gets more viable.

      Or is this another sign of a company that

  • the cars immediately made lewd comments to female passengers. Too soon?
  • California revoked their registrations and banned them. If that was a ploy by CDMV to get them to pay the appropriate bribes for access it certainly backfired. Otherwise, the CA got exactly what it wanted.

    • by Desler ( 1608317 )

      What Uber did is like registering your fleet of semis as non-commercial vehicles and then whining and complaining that that broke the rules.

    • I'm pretty sure the "bribes" you're talking about are a $150 fee for the first 10 test vehicles and $50 for each additional 10 test vehicles.

      Yeah, that's it. Far less than it cost to ship the cars to Arizona, and far less than the administrative costs of the program.

      Boy, Uber sure came out ahead on that one.

    • I'm sure the test engineers are pretty pissed off that they end up in the shit-hole that Arizona is rather than the land of milk and honey they could have been in.

  • self-driving truck and stormed off to Arizona in a self-driving huff,

    Do the cars that pick up the people also storm off in a huff? It would be funny if they also call the passengers "meatbags" and tell them to "bite my shiny metal ass"

    • self-driving truck and stormed off to Arizona in a self-driving huff,

      Do the cars that pick up the people also storm off in a huff? It would be funny if they also call the passengers "meatbags" and tell them to "bite my shiny metal ass"

      Surely they can do better than huffs [youtube.com]. They've gotta be hell in Phoenix during summer:

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Wednesday February 22, 2017 @12:03PM (#53911549) Journal
    Basically no one obeys speed limits. The posted speed limits are at best suggestions, and at worst revenue generators for the local governments. And many other traffic rules are casually disobeyed. Except for the stop sign, I don't see much voluntary compliance of traffic law. Stop after the white line at the signals, making a rolling right turn through the red light, 5 or 10 mph over speed limit within the city, 10 to 15 mph over the limit on highways are rampant.

    Now throw into this mixture a fleet of cars, strictly obeying speed limits, preferring to slow down rather than speed up on yellow, refuse to use free right turns, coming to full stops on grade crossings... A few Access vans, school buses and trucks doing this itself annoys people stuck behind them in traffic. Now suddenly a large fleet of vehicles with a spinning dome on the head ....

    Also, in the game of chicken, the winning strategy is to appear be irrational. Break your steering wheel and throw it away in full view of the competitor, "I can't swerve, even if I want to, your move buddy!". All these cars are known to rational decision makers. They will be gamed like nobody's business. People will dangerously cut infront of them, be very rude to them, after all they are machines, no hard feeling. And every time the self driving car will slow down, yield, and let the barbarians get away with it.

    In isolated test cases, in small numbers they will work. But large number of them interacting with large number of normal people, they will be forever stuck on the highway ramp or left turn yield on green locations.

    • Basically no one obeys speed limits. The posted speed limits are at best suggestions, and at worst revenue generators for the local governments. And many other traffic rules are casually disobeyed. Except for the stop sign, I don't see much voluntary compliance of traffic law.

      This is more indicative of your area than the general way people behave on the roads. Also calling it a revenue generator is a bit extreme. Paying a fine for something completely within your control makes this a 100% voluntary gesture.

      • Read about Kilbuck Township, PA.
      • by Agripa ( 139780 )

        Basically no one obeys speed limits. The posted speed limits are at best suggestions, and at worst revenue generators for the local governments. And many other traffic rules are casually disobeyed. Except for the stop sign, I don't see much voluntary compliance of traffic law.

        This is more indicative of your area than the general way people behave on the roads. Also calling it a revenue generator is a bit extreme. Paying a fine for something completely within your control makes this a 100% voluntary gesture.

        How about paying a fine for obeying the law? Where I am, police pull people over and give tickets for laws they did not break and the magistrate judges do not care and why should they? The fines pay the cities and them.

    • I am not really in favor of these cars, but consider this counter argument.

      I have a 17 mile commute to work. The divided 2 and 3 lane highway is a mile from my house, and my office is right off the exit. So it is effectively all highway miles. I can usually make it in 20-23 minutes. Most of the trip is a 60MPH speed limit. Traffic is normally 70-75 MPH, with a few others on the margin of that. Pretty much what you stated.

      But why does it take me 20+ minutes to get to work? Because when we aren't going

      • You know it would be more efficient, and I would grant you 90% of the people know it would be more efficient if every one relaxed a little bit. But all it takes is a few to be bit more aggressive. And it will set the ball rolling towards everyone rush as fast as you can.

        The starkest effect is seen in flights between India and USA. Most passengers would patiently wait their "zone" to be called while boarding in USA to fly to India. Almost the very same set of passengers would be lining up in Delhi or Mumbai

        • or maybe the self-driving cars will have a mellowing effect. There will be such a large amount of them that the new normal will become to drive at or below the speed limit. Studies have shown that humans tend to follow what is believed to be normal behavior and this is established by what the current behavior is (yeah, a bit circular). For example, in Norway (I believe) convicted felons are permitted to vote and in fact, vote before the general population, this is seen as normal. In the USA, convicted f

    • Since they'll have cameras, they could - in theory - report such dangerous behavior on the part of human drivers to the police, with video evidence. If issuing tickets based on non-police video evidence isn't legal now, I'd expect it to be soon. Whether that applies to speeding or just cutting someone off remains to be seen, although car manufacturers would likely get a *lot* of bad press for doing that for speeding as well.
      • So kewl! Maybe they can also arrange fines for those morons who litter from their car, I'm looking at you inconsiderate bastard smokers...

  • Hop aboard the Dereg Express!

  • If they don't model these cars after the Johnny Cab, I'm not interested.
  • So instead of a driver who makes (c) $300 / day - they're going to have 2 engineers each making $120K/year each in the front seat....
    Steal underpants --> profit...
    Somethings amiss at the Circle K
  • ... of California bureaucrats are delicious.

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