The death of the chattering cabbie?: Uber to launch self-driving cars ‘in weeks’

Ride-hailing service Uber is to start carrying passengers with self-driving cars in next few weeks. The company says the autonomous Ford Fusions will have human back-up drivers when they take to the streets of Pittsburgh. In the trial stage, they will also have an observer sitting shotgun to take notes on a laptop. Cameras inside the vehicle will record all of the goings on. Customers will be allocated the cars on a random basis and will be allowed to travel free so they are not put off by the technology.

We are going commercial. This can’t just be about science

Travis Kalanick, Uber’s chief executive

The plan was revealed as Volvo agreed a $300 million alliance with Uber to develop self-driving cars. The partnership will allow the Swedish-based carmaker, owned by China’s Geely, and ride-hailing service to pool resources into developing the autonomous driving capabilities of its flagship XC90 SUV model. It could also allow Uber to do away with its biggest expense - the drivers. Uber will purchase Volvos and then install its own driverless control system for the specific needs of its ride-hailing service.

Autonomous driving is key. For this you need software to develop and be safe

Volvo chief executive Hakan Samuelsson