Uber starts offering rides with self-driving cars in San Francisco


Uber is extending its self-driving vehicle tests to San Francisco after several months in Pittsburgh, the company announced early Wednesday morning.

“Starting today, Self-Driving Ubers will be on the road in San Francisco,” described Wayne Ting, Uber’s general manager in San Francisco. “Self-driving cars have been picking up and dropping off riders on the streets of Pittsburgh for the last 3 months, and now we’re excited to bring them to our hometown.”

The announcement is merely a formality, as many people including Geektime Co-Founder Yaniv Feldman had spotted Uber’s autonomous automobiles rolling across the Bay Area metropolis just last week. The public display of the Uber logo probably implied what was an open secret would be announced soon after they appeared.

“Simply open your Uber app and request an uberX. A Self-Driving Uber will pick you up if one is available.”

Uber debuted a fleet of self-driving cars in Pittsburgh last week (photo credit, Uber)
Uber debuted a fleet of self-driving cars in Pittsburgh (photo credit, Uber)

That doesn’t mean you need to accept the ride if you aren’t comfortable being part of what is still technically an experiment. Any user can cancel the ride if you receive a notification the ride is self-driving.

That being said, a trained expert will be physically behind the wheel of the cars on the streets of San Fran as they are in Pittsburgh, in case the need arises to take the wheel in the event of a malfunction with the mechanics.

nuTonomy announced self-driving tests in Singapore and Boston (courtesy)
nuTonomy announced self-driving tests in Singapore and Boston (courtesy)

Self-driving Ubers will hold up to three passengers. Special requests for an autonomous ride are not currently being taken. It’s also unclear whate percentage of the Uber userbase would want to participate in what is still a trial of the technology.

Those rides also include cameras, ostensibly to learn more about how we can improve the self-driving experience for our riders,” though it is also likely it might be a condition of the permit to try out the cars on San Francisco’s streets.

A global arms race is underway as several coalitions of technology and automotive companies are now testing their self-driving vehicles on the roads of Canada, Germany, and Singapore.

MIT spinout nuTonomy has partnered with Uber rival Grab to test the vehicles in Singapore and now Boston; BMW is launching a trial in Munich in early 2017; and Blackberry is part of a group testing in Waterloo, Ontario.




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