Uber, which has a self-driving research lab in Pittsburgh, has no immediate plans to deploy auton...
Uber, which has a self-driving research lab in Pittsburgh, has no immediate plans to deploy autonomous cars in other cities. But in an interview with The Associated Press, CEO Travis Kalanick said development of the vehicles is paramount for the San Francisco company, which has grown exponentially after starting seven years ago.
"We've got to be laser-focused on getting this to market, because it's not a side project for us," he said. "This is everything. This is all the marbles for Uber."
Without drivers, the cost of hailing a ride will be cheaper than owning a car, changing the way we all get around, Kalanick has said.
By using human backup drivers, Uber is basically testing the technology and taking people along for the ride, said Bryant Walker Smith, a University of South Carolina professor who studies self-driving technology.
"Part of this is marketing in the sense that they're going to be doing continued research and development of these systems," he said.
Uber also announced that it was acquiring a startup called Otto that has focused on developing self-driving big rigs and is stocked with big talent in the still-small world of self-driving technology. Kalanick said the acquisition signals Uber's intent to get into the movement of goods and freight.
In another deal, the company announced a $300 million alliance with Volvo to supply vehicles and technology. The announcements may push it ahead of its prime competitor, Lyft, which earlier this year took a $500 million investment from General Motors.
Those arrangements are among of a flurry of deals between Silicon Valley tech companies, traditional automakers and ride-hailing companies as they vie for autonomous car leadership. Google has been testing self-driving cars on public roads since 2009 but has never offered large-scale rides to the public.
[lock]Uber's move to haul passengers with autonomous vehicles is not surprising, given the company's history of pushing into gray areas with little or no regulation, Walker Smith said.[/lock]