Uber Determines Pittsburgh Lives Most Expendable; Plans To Unleash Autonomous Vehicles There Within Weeks

Tyler Durden's picture

Uber just announced plans to introduce autonomous, well semi-autonomous anyway, vehicles to carry passengers in Pittsburgh later this month.  Per an interview with Bloomberg, in a plan described as "audacious, even reckless," Uber CEO Travis Kalanick says autonomous cars are "going commercial" because they "cant' just be about science." 

Even though the long-term plan is to have completely autonomous vehicles, for now cars in Pittsburgh will have engineers in the driver seat ready to take over at any moment while simultaneously monitoring for "bugs" in the system.  As one Uber engineer pointed out, there's a need to keep human drivers in the cars for now as his "autonomous" vehicle suddenly went "un-autonomous" earlier this week while crossing the Allegheny River...but, as he points out, "bridges are really hard."  Who cares about bridges?  If your car happens to go tumbling off the edge there's usually water below to soften your fall.    

On a recent weekday test drive, the safety drivers were still an essential part of the experience, as Uber’s autonomous car briefly turned un-autonomous, while crossing the Allegheny River. A chime sounded, a signal to the driver to take the wheel. A second ding a few seconds later indicated that the car was back under computer control. “Bridges are really hard,” Krikorian says. “And there are like 500 bridges in Pittsburgh.”

As we pointed out in a post earlier this week, to the extent the technology works consistently, avoiding the nasty consequences of death and mayhem in the event of failure, autonomous vehicles are worth big money to Uber and consumers...though not so much for the automotive OEMs (see "Ford Announces Plans To Self-Destruct Starting In 2021").  As we pointed out, the cost of paying drivers is a substantial portion of the ~$1.00 per mile charge paid by Uber riders.  To the extent that cost can be removed from the equation then fares charged by companies like Uber will decline materially.

In the long run, Kalanick says, prices will fall so low that the per-mile cost of travel, even for long trips in rural areas, will be cheaper in a driverless Uber than in a private car.

Unfortunately, for the auto OEMs the story is the exact opposite.  In theory, truly autonomous cars could result in substantial increases in passenger car utilization rates and, therefore, declines in annual car sales.  But apparently, Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson isn't worried (yes, we can sense the pure optimism in the quote below):

“That could be seen as a threat,” says Volvo Cars CEO Hakan Samuelsson. “We see it as an opportunity.”

But still, even if the technology works, the question remains how quickly consumers will adopt it, if at all.  There certainly has been no shortage of gruesome videos hitting Youtube lately of Tesla vehicles crashing while driving in autopilot mode.  As pointed out by an Uber engineer, the sheer statistics of operating vehicles in an uncontrolled environment means that accidents are inevitable. 

Although Kalanick and other self-driving car advocates say the vehicles will ultimately save lives, they face harsh scrutiny for now. In July a driver using Tesla’s Autopilot service died after colliding with a tractor-trailer, apparently because both the driver and the car’s computers didn’t see it. (The crash is currently being investigated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.) Google has seen a handful of accidents, but they’ve been less severe, in part because it limits its cars to 25 miles per hour. Uber’s cars haven’t had any fender benders since they began road-testing in Pittsburgh in May, but at some point something will go wrong, according to Raffi Krikorian, the company’s engineering director. “We’re interacting with reality every day,” he says. “It’s coming.”

While we're sure autonomous vehicles will be commonplace at some point in the future we have our doubts as to whether they're ready for prime-time just yet.  It should be interesting to monitor Uber's success in Pittsburgh.


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booboo's picture

Returns home with no hub caps



JohnG's picture

No wheels, doors, hood, engine, transmission, exhaust, seats, carpet, radio......stripped in 60 mins.

johngaltfla's picture

Even though I can not stand their football or hockey team, I think it is time to start a new movement to save their lives:


eforce's picture

Lets hope it's better than the Uber Floor Cleaner... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OpFUrjq8nWE

Gaius Frakkin' Baltar's picture

This thing is a classic circle jerk. CEOs, engineers, and bureaucrats have all convinced themselves this is the future, but few of them have considered what buyers actually want.

Stuck on Zero's picture

I just can't imagine a self-driving car dropping someone off at the airport in the snow on a week before Christmas.

Huckleberry Pie's picture

Philly knee grows are going to have fun with this. Profit, too.

Antifaschistische's picture

finally a taxi we can drink and smoke weed in!!  this will be great!!

reinhardt's picture

like pbg


but stealers lives matters





tmosley's picture

You do realize these vehicles are very nearly entirely made out of cameras, right?

Hype Alert's picture

They better install dash cams so they can record the graffiti artist in action.  These cars won't last long without a security guard in the front seat.

live free's picture

Just to be a little rational. 

  • How do they get gas? 
  • do they now have maintenance crews and shops to pay for?
  • Do they park when not in use?  If so, how do they pay for parking?

How many others can you think of?

The Saint's picture
The Saint (not verified) live free Aug 18, 2016 8:37 PM

Do they pull over and fix a flat tire?

Do they clean up the mess in the back seat after fornication?

Do they explain to the Cop why they made a traffic violation?

Do they know how to drive on ice or snow?

Can they tell if a passenger is having a medical problem?

Temporalist's picture

Can they honk for minutes on end in a tunnel traffic jam?


Will the feel remorse when they run over animals?


When they get road rage will they beat up a toaster?

sleigher's picture

Will they stop me from siphoning all the gas out of the tank?

JuliaS's picture

How to they get gas?

Option 1 - the passenger does it. We already have self-checkouts at supermarkets. Nobody's complaining.

Option 2 - contracts with gas stations which provide full service.

Option 3 - designated fleet refueling stations - same kind as postal service, police and delivery trucks use.

How do they maintain cars?

- They have crews that make the cars for this trial run, so logically the same crews will be responsible for servicing them.

Do they park when not in use? How do they pay for parking?

- Same way as ride-share companies have been doing it for years. Municipal contracts. Designated parking spots. Reduced penalties for violations in exchange for lump sum compensation to local authorities.

Do they pull over and fix a flat tire?

- They pull over, and notify a service center, as most drivers do. Thanks to emission regulations, many high mileage cars don't even have spares anymore. Carmakers gave them up to reduce payload, and most drivers don't know how to use them anyway.

Do they clean up the mess in the back seat after fornication?

- They don't. They'll simply bill you for damage or confiscate your security deposit.

Do they explain to the Cop why they made a traffic violation?

- They don't explain anything to a cop, much like the cop explains nothing when executing civil forfeiture.

Do they know how to drive on ice or snow?

- They do. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZq5FMwl8D4

Can they tell if a passenger is having a medical problem?

- Can a regular car do that?

Here2Go's picture
Here2Go (not verified) JuliaS Aug 18, 2016 9:20 PM

Yeah, but can they stop on the Clemente Bridge, toss the keys into the Allegheny River & leave the Dowager stranded?

cognitive dissident's picture

do you work for Stuber or are you just a cunt whose too lazy to drive her brood back and forth from liberal indoctrination camp (skool)? Seriously, go fuck yourself.

JuliaS's picture

No need to take out your sexual frustrations on me. If you like your old car, you can keep it.


MalteseFalcon's picture

"If you like your old car, you can keep it."

Did Obama tell you this?

City_Of_Champyinz's picture

Whew makes me almost glad I moved to Chicagoland...All I have to do is dodge bullets.

theliberalliberal's picture

its a great idea.

Now I can drink beer and smoke a joint on the way out and there is no cabbie to say not to.

leave the empties on the driver's seat too

ToSoft4Truth's picture

Leave the sleepy hooker in the back too. 

JLee2027's picture

I have 6 court convictions for driving on a suspended license and multple stays in jail.  One cop never showed for court. He knew it was BS.  But think about that...they are running your license plate just because you drive by. Totally unconstitutional. Papers please? Oh, bad papers we arrest you.  That's what the Soviet Union did!

Fuck them.  Badge of honor as far as I'm concerned.

Why would anyone oppose self-driving cars? That is what we need...it can save 30,000 American traffic deaths per year and put the traffic nazi police and courts out of business. No more red light tickets, etc.

Plus, although there are no estimates, one of the obvious reasons why Uber is successful is the Nazi's in power take away the driver licenses for non-driving reasons. This abuse of power began under CLINTON in the mid-1990's. There are not hundreds of thousands, probably millions of Americans who will never drive again because they can't or won't meet the Government imposed conditions required to get their license back.  I am one of them.  No moving violations since 2001, but "conditions to drive" (ie pay the ex what they say) which I refuse. I haven't driven for 4 years and the 4 years before that were a constant battle driving on a suspended license, and telling the police and court (nicely, but firmly) that I wasn't going to obey them. Ever.  Several times I was pulled over driving my kids from school or getting them something to eat. The Nazi's don't care. THOU SHALL NOT DRIVE UNLESS WE APPROVE IT.  

They never broke me, but when my children got their own license, I sold my car and stopped driving.  No need for more punishment.  Now I take the bus or call Uber.

So Uber and especially self-driving cars are the solution to the Nazi's.  All lovers of freedom should support self-driving cars.  


You do make some awesome points and I would  love to see the day when those fucks get put out of business, but instead of a self driving car for the average American how about a self FLYING car?

Its all Bullshit! It aint going to happen.

tmosley's picture

Self flying cars are dramatically easier to make than self driving cars. If we didn't have the FAA, we would have had those 5-10 years ago, and we would have had flying cars in the 80's.

Flying cars don't have signs to deal with, don't have to worry about close quarters with moving obstacles, nor distinguishing a paper bag from a concrete block in the road. Hell, might have been able to automate them even before we got deep learning, meaning they could have been self flying in the mid 90's or so.

Adahy's picture

*Ding* Passenger:  Records indicate that you have unpaid fines/fees/alimony from the court system.  Doors are locked, authorities are notified, and you will be deposited at the county jail for pickup by law enforcement.

Have a nice day and thanks for choosing Uber-autonomous.

JLee2027's picture

Who says you have to tell the car who you are?  Again its none of their business. And these antics will continue until people say "NO" to a corrupt government and won't support them any longer, which is what I do. Fuck em.

I've said "NO". What about you? 

Temporalist's picture

Facial recognition; Finger print access to vehicle; Voice recognition; Stool sample; DNA; Retina scan.

tmosley's picture

These are commercial services. You might as well claim that elevators are evil because they might lock on you for the same reason.

Temporalist's picture

And they will drive you right to the courthouse or jail without our approval...FREEDOM!!!

sleigher's picture

I feel your pain, but travelling/freedom of movement in America is a protected right.   With that said, what do I do when I need to drive to another state?  I cannot take an uber from Alabama to Virginia.  Or even from N.C to S.C.  I am with you in saying no, I just say no to flying and the the TSA goons.


We'll get you home safely or your money back.

CHoward's picture

Sorry, I pass - I'm not quite there yet.

111111111111's picture
111111111111 (not verified) Aug 18, 2016 6:58 PM

will crash. get one and sue the company after fabricated crash

peddling-fiction's picture

It was just an "accident".

These folks know better than us. <sarc>

tmosley's picture

These aren't stupid like our current cars. These things will be covered in cameras and other sensors. Every time a Tesla has crashed, they have known exactly what was going on leading up to said crash. Trying to fabricate a crash will be about as difficult as trying to break into the Oval Office.

mofreedom's picture

UBER: Where do you mind if people die from our product?

.gov: Pittsburgh, of course, and area surrounding, please, a MUST, as we killed coal, now we take out the personages.

UBER: can I get a cole/frie witch while there?

.gov: No. You get kale.

UBER: Yes nurse Ratchet.


mofreedom's picture

Edit: The mayor of Pittsburgh (love the city) douches with Hillary's used, bloody, vaginal excretions.


Clock Crasher's picture

"It's coming."

The only thing that "is coming" are the Uber brass appointing themselves to whatever government department is tasked with regulating transportation.

That way no one goes to jail, everyone still gets paid after we have the first few deaths. Likely to be bridge related.

Jason T's picture

Like Rambo?  


Clock Crasher's picture

Part 2?  when he was peppering the bridge with HE arrows?

That might be taking it too far.

Last of the Middle Class's picture

Damn where are the product liability lawyers? This should be a boon to them.


RedDwarf's picture

They will be buried by the insurance companies seeing accident rates fall to a small fraction of what it used to be once this tech matures.

JohnG's picture

The first one I see will wreck into me, then I can;t feel my legs and I EAT THIER FUCKING LUNCH IN COURT.

Imma be rich.

RedDwarf's picture

Autopilot tech will be here very soon.  Then it will become mandatory.

As for worries about it being dangerous, give it a rest.  This stuff will get very good very fast.  Human drivers suck for the most part.  Rates of accidents will go way down as this tech matures.  What you should be worried about is the growth in the nanny state it will promote, not an increase in the dangers of being on the road.

Dakota Kid's picture

This is another job eliminator.

Soon you will have to pay exorbitant insurance rates to drive your own car and most wont be able to afford it.

Uber cars will soon only go to places that the powers that be allow. We will be kept on the "reservation".

If there is a pending accident, the computer will calculate whether you or the other vehicle is more important and decide if you are the one to live or die.

Humans are a liability to the powers that be.

I suggest everyone read "Why the Future Doesn't Need Us" by Bill Joy on the link below.