If you want to hail a ride in San Francisco, but don’t want to deal with that pesky “talking to the driver” thing, Uber has good news for you. The ridesharing service has expanded its fleet of autonomous vehicles-for-hire to its home market.
San Francisco is now the second city where Uber has driverless car pickups for public use, after debuting the service in Pittsburgh in September. Like its Pittsburgh service, Uber’s self-driving San Francisco fleet is made up of XC90 vehicles made by Volvo, which are equipped with lidar, seven cameras, and wireless technology.
“The promise of self-driving is core to our mission of reliable transportation, everywhere for everyone,” Anthony Levandowski, Uber’s vice president of self-driving technology, wrote in a blog post.
The service will work much like it does in Pittsburgh: starting today, when riders request an UberX, they’ll be matched with a self-driving car if one is available. But while the service is only available to some of Uber’s most frequent passengers in Pittsburgh, anyone in San Francisco will have a chance to hail one of the driverless cars.
Prefer a regular vehicle? Customers will be able to cancel and request a regular driver in the app if they’re matched with a driverless car. There will be a human in the car when it arrives, a company engineer who sits behind the wheel to take over when needed.
A large touch screen showing the route will also let passengers take selfies from a camera facing the back seat, and then, Uber is hoping, email those photos to themselves and share them on social media.
As for whether Uber is actually allowed to do this in San Francisco, it’s unclear, the New York Times notes: the company wasn’t listed on California’s Department of Motor Vehicles website among others that have permits to test autonomous vehicles in the state.
“All of our vehicles are compliant with applicable federal and state laws,” an Uber spokeswoman said in a statement.
Levandowski acknowledges the issue as well, and says everything is fine because the company has humans in every car.
“We have looked at this issue carefully and we don’t believe we do,” he writes, adding that Uber isn’t planning to operate any differently than it does in Pittsburgh, “where our pilot has been running successfully for several months.”
“Second, the rules apply to cars that can drive without someone controlling or monitoring them,” Levandowski says. “For us, it’s still early days and our cars are not yet ready to drive without a person monitoring them.”