A world dominated by self-driving cars is no longer just possible, it’s inevitable. And the proof is everywhere. In Arizona, where Waymo (formerly known as Google’s self-driving car project) is testing minivans sans humans inside. In Boston, where Lyft and robocar outfit Nutonomy are schlepping Patriots fans to and fro. In Sweden, where Volvo is testing its autonomous tech on impossibly photogenic families.
These pilot projects aren’t just public relations stunts. They’re crucial for any company eager to bring this technology to market, because they pit the vehicle not just against the wild world, but against the people it will someday transport for money.
Uber was the first in the US to launch this kind of program, in Pittsburgh in September of 2016. And while 2017 has been an overall disaster for the ridehailing company, the signs of progress on the self-driving front are clear. The vehicles have expanded their territory and their knowledge. They drive more smoothly, require less human intervention, and can change lanes on their own.
But the way the car interacts with its surroundings is just part of the equation. What’s happening in the backseat matters just as much.
“I don’t think that there’s a wide range of reactions,” says native Pittsburgher Larry Lagattuta, who recently took a ride in a robo-Uber. “I think there are two. One is ‘Oh my gosh that would be so cool’. The other reaction is ‘How did you do that without having a stroke? Because I’d be so freaked out.'” (Lagattuta is firmly in the ‘cool’ camp, though he wishes the cars could spot and avoid potholes.)
To see how Uber is eliminating pesky human drivers and handling its future customers, check out the video above.