Race for driverless cars hots up


Uber has announced plans to roll-out self-driving taxis in America within a fortnight, after Ford vowed to put driverless cars on the road by 2021 and Helsinki unveiled driverless buses.

These are the latest moves in a simmering war between a range of major players, with Google, Apple, BMW, and Volvo all striving to take the lead in driverless technology.

After teaming up with Volvo, Uber said the launch of the driverless cars would take place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

However the vehicles will be supervised by a driver, who can take control if necessary, and an observer, according to reports.


A spokeswoman for the firm told the BBC: 'Starting later this month, Uber will allow customers in downtown Pittsburgh to summon self-driving cars from their phones, crossing an important milestone that no automotive or technology company has yet achieved.

'In Pittsburgh, customers will request cars the normal way, via Uber's app, and will be paired with a driverless car at random. Trips will be free for the time being, rather than the standard local rate of $1.30 [£0.98] per mile.'

Ford has vowed to build a totally self-driving car by 2021 specifically designed for commercial services such as taxis, as the car giant seeks to revolutionise the industry once again.

The car will have no steering wheel or pedals, thus avoiding the half way house of some interim technology, which hands control back to the driver in some situations.

As part of the plan to dominate the market in the next decade, Ford has made a range of carefully selected acquisitions including Israeli machine learning group SAIPS and investing scores of millions in laser-based driverless system company Velodyne Lidar.

Chief executive Mark Fields said: ‘Vehicle autonomy could have as big an impact on society as the Ford mass assembly line had over 100 years ago.’

The news comes as self-driving buses have been launched on public roads in Helsinki Finland.

Capable of carrying up to 12 passengers, the Easymile EZ-10 electric mini-buses will undergo a month-long trial.


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