Uber has had a couple of mixed months, recently. They have expanded a great deal, and become the premier taxi service app and ride-on-demand company internationally. But they have also come under fire after several of their drivers ended up accused of raping passengers in cities like New Delhi, Chicago and LA.
It isn’t a surprise that rather than just tightening security and background checks, as they have promised to do, Uber is looking for a new alternative. That alternative seems to be removing the human element entirely, and instead opting for robots.
Remember how we talked about the future of AI and how it pertains to products like self driving cars? Uber may just be the next generation in that technology.
The Self Driving Taxi
Tech Crunch initially broke the story, claiming that a source had come forward and said that Uber had “cleared out” the robotics department at Carnegie Mellon University.
For those who don’t know, that particular department is home to some of the greatest minds in robotics today, and they were an integral part in putting together projects such as the software steering the Mars Rover.
Uber later confirmed this, stating that they had hired several members of the robotics team to join their own research and development efforts on a new project. That project is creating a new self-driving taxi that will automate the actual navigation, integrating with their current hailing process.
Not only would this make using Uber a lot safer at a time when people are becoming nervous about being transported by strangers, but it will carve out a new section of a blossoming market that Uber could potentially dominate.
The Google Element
Of course, some news sources are claiming that Google might have something to say about that. Rumors have been flying that the brand intends to make their own taxi network using the self driving cars they showed off in the Fall of last year.
The Wall Street Journal has come out denying this, saying that the rumors are an exaggeration of Google’s current attempts to create a carpooling network that will work internally for employees, and is aimed at environmental conservation.
Honestly, that could very well be true. Google has a long history of supporting and fronting environmental causes, and is quite passionate about having a cleaner, more energy efficient world.
But it isn’t too big of a leap to assume that they could eventually try and slip into that market if they see a growing potential for profit. Not to mention, while they were a major financial backer of Uber once upon a time, they haven’t provided any direct support since Google’s Chief Legal Officer David Drummond joined Uber’s Board of Directors.
Could Google provide a potential foil for Uber, or maybe a partnership once their own cars have been developed? It is hard to say, but one thing is for sure: more competition early on in the self driving vehicles market can only be a good thing. Considering most drivers seem unable to properly use a blinker, giving the task over to machines will lead to a lot less aggravation, at least for me.