As I’ve tried to point out in the past, even if there are a few questions and issues over individuals and policies regarding Uber, I love the concept and like using the service. But I can think of one thing which might make me give it up entirely, and that’s if the car showed up to pick me up without a human begin inside of it.
Driver-on-demand service Uber is building a robotics research lab in Pittsburgh, PA to “kickstart autonomous taxi fleet development,” sources close to the decision have confirmed to TechCrunch. They say the company has hired talent from Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute, including lead engineering and commercialization experts.
Sources tell us Uber is hiring more than fifty senior scientists from Carnegie Mellon as well as from the National Robotics Engineering Center, a CMU-affiliated research entity. Carnegie Mellon, home of the Mars Rover and other high-profile robotics projects, declined to comment at this time, as did scientists mentioned by our source. Uber has “cleaned out” the Robotics Institute, said the source.
Uber came out with a blog post after that story broke announcing the formation of their new strategic partnership and advanced technologies center. (Which is just the kind of innocuous name I imagine SKYNET used when the research first started.)
Uber and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) are announcing today a strategic partnership that includes the creation of the Uber Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh, near the CMU campus. The center will focus on the development of key long-term technologies that advance Uber’s mission of bringing safe, reliable transportation to everyone, everywhere.
The partnership will provide a forum for Uber technology leaders to work closely with CMU faculty, staff, and students — both on campus and at the National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC) — to do research and development, primarily in the areas of mapping and vehicle safety and autonomy technology.
Ah, yes… “autonomy technology.” What a nice way to say robot drivers. This is just the same thing Google was working on with that driverless car last year, though at the time we might have been fooled into thinking they just didn’t want to pay drivers to go around taking pictures of the entire world. The media was previously portraying this as some sort of a fight between Uber and Google, but since then Google has actually invested in Uber through their Google Ventures arm and been getting pretty cozy with the car service. They’ve also started including Uber among the transport options in their Google Maps application.
All of this certainly sounds like driverless cars to me. Did these people never watch the Terminator series? Or the reboot of I Robot? This never ends well. All jokes aside, I suppose that this is one case where science fiction will eventually be caught up to by reality. Cars that drive themselves will probably be at least an option – if not mandatory – within the lifetimes of at least some of our younger readers. But are we ready for this? Seriously… would you ever feel comfortable getting into a car with no human driver at the controls in case of a technological failure on the highway? I understand there are trains which can run without an engineer… they even have them in DC, but they currently are run in manual mode with a driver watching over the system. But trains run on tracks, generally in tunnels, and don’t have to dodge in and out of traffic.
I can’t see getting into a car running on this technology, sorry. And yes, you can all get off my lawn.