Uber Joins the Race to the Autonomous Car

    We live in a world where you can tap a button and a car service arrives right at your doorstep; now imagine if that car service didn't have a driver. Interestingly, that world may not be too far off. Last week, Uber announced that the app-driven car service will be taking steps in robotics research.

    Uber, founded in 2009, is one of the only app-based transportation companies focused on directly connecting customers to drivers. With the tap of a button, customers can call a ride to arrive within minutes, and for a lower cost than that of traditional cab companies.

    The company unveiled a strategic partnership with the Carnegie Mellon University robotics team in an effort to begin the development of an autonomous car fleet. Uber plans to promptly begin the construction of an 'Advanced Technologies Center' in Pittsburgh to serve as a home for their autonomous robotics research.

    Researchers across the world have been working on autonomous cars for years. From Google to BMW, and now Uber, the advantages of autonomous passenger vehicles are undeniable, and everyone wants to join in the race. While the idea of a self-driving car isn't exactly a new one, connectivity between an app and an autonomous car would plug vehicles into the Internet of Things.

    Uber has set strong grounds for substantial long-term technology development by working with one of the best robotics teams in the nation. The company plans to provide academic grants to the professors and graduate students involved in the research. Oftentimes academic research is published, so there's a good chance you will be able to stay in the loop on any major developments taking place at the Advanced Technologies Center. In addition to partnering with CMU, the National Robotics Engineering Center will also be participating in the research.

    Since the announcement, there have been rumors that Google is also making strides to create a ridesharing program that would compete with Uber, however according to Robohub, Google has dismissed the idea. Google invested in Uber in 2013 and even has an Uber feature in Google Maps. While the company is knowingly developing its own self-driving car, it appears Google does not have plans to directly compete with Uber...for now.

    If one thing's for sure, Uber's recent announcement is the strike of a match for a long burning road of robotics research. Following the research at the Advanced Technologies Center will be a fascinating journey in the race to the autonomous passenger vehicle.

    By: Erica Allaby, Content Manager, ROBO Global

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