Well if you thought Uber had developed a lot of enemies in the taxi business before by bringing a new level of competition to the somewhat monopolized industry, you can bet that those enemies will be even more incensed with the company’s latest move — and perhaps ironically, bring the very drivers that they gave a new lease on working into the enemy fold.
In the last week Uber has unveiled their fleet of self-driving cars in the test market of Pittsburgh, PA. But before you pull out your smartphone to jump into the future, you should know that not everyone in the area will necessarily get one of these autonomous vehicles when they call for a ride. And those who do will be joined by an Uber driver sitting behind the wheel just in case and another in the passenger seat taking notes.
A handful of Ford Fusions make up the small group of self-driving Uber cars in the city, but there will soon be Volvo XC90 SUVs joining the fray, once they’ve completed testing in Sweden. And if you happen to be one of those chomping at the bit for a ride in one because you think it will increase your productivity, you’re in the minority. According to a study, 23% of people don’t trust the technology enough to even hail a ride, and another 36% saying they would only ride in one if they were paying attention to the road the whole time.
That will change, of course. People objected to cars in general when Ford started rolling them out over 100 years ago. Not many do today. And there are a lot of advantages to autonomous cars, like less traffic and congestion, less CO2 emissions, less speeding and — one would assume — less accidents, more parking spaces, the list goes on. Plus, software doesn’t get in a rush if you’re late for work, doesn’t have road rage, and doesn’t forget to make a left when it’s supposed to.
However, the job opportunities for anyone to become a part-time driver seem to be on their way out just as they were starting to get going. On the flip side, if you’re pursuing a career in machine learning then the future is wide open for you.
The experience of riding in one of these self-driving cars is apparently pretty cool to say the least. An iPad in the rear seat tells the passenger whether the auto-drive function is on or if the real driver has taken over. They also see the world through the computer vision provided by the gear atop the vehicle, so they see everything in infrared on the screen, like the car does. The original gear is compared to a desktop computer and bulky, but Uber moved to ‘laptop’ gear within four months that’s much less bulky and ugly, and they’re working on the ‘smartphone’ version right now.
So, as progress is want to do, it marches forward. Your future in driving for a living is looking less possible, but coders, machine learning experts, and AI-driven careers have yet another reason to shout.
(image credit: Uber)