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Are Driverless Cars the Way of the Future?

by William Rutledge

Uber is a driving service that was started in 2009 with the idea of making it easier to get around. It’s like a cab service, just much more reliable and cheap. Instead of calling hours ahead and waiting for a cab, Uber has its own application for smart phones, which shows the drivers who are in your area via GPS. You can usually get rides within 15 minutes of placing the order and as little as one minute if you are in an Uber-heavy area.

The app has had much success since its launch. At the moment, Uber is operating in over 200 American cities, with more on the way. By teaming up with Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Uber hopes that it can take its service to the next level. For years, Carnegie Mellon has been making strides in the robotics field, especially robotic cars that require no driver.

Uber’s chief executive, Travis Kalanick, said to Code Conference, “When there’s no other dude in the car (driver), the cost of taking an Uber anywhere becomes cheaper than owning a vehicle. So the magic there is, you basically bring the cost below the cost of ownership for everybody, and then car ownership goes away.” This would save the user money because only the service is being paid for, you don’t have to pay for the person to drive you around, which will bring down prices for their services.

Uber will be building a lab where it can work with Carnegie Mellon to start making these driverless cars, which Uber wants to become the standard of the company. Some of the things they want to put into the new cars are better map sharing (to avoid driver confusion) and safety measures (to better protect the passengers and other people on the road).

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission signed a two-year agreement to let Uber run its cars in Pennsylvania in every city with the exception of Philadelphia. Carnegie Mellon has already teamed up with Google, and now, with Uber in the mix, Pittsburgh is becoming a big influence in the world of technology.

“This is a case where collaboration between the city and its universities is creating opportunities for job growth and community development,” Bill Peduto, mayor of Pittsburgh, told the Columbus Dispatch.

Andrew Moore, dean of the CMU School of Computer Science, weighed in after hearing about the deal between the company and University.

“Carnegie Mellon has been working hard over the last few years,” Moore said, “developing direct relationships with the absolute top companies in technology and science, so it’s not surprising that we tend to bump into each other.”

According to techcrunch.com, “Shares in Uber, meanwhile, continue to soar. Its stock was up a whopping 10 percent in after-hours trading on news of the deal, bringing shares to an all-time high.” Pittsburgh is becoming a technological powerhouse, which has been a surprise to people who were not aware of the technological profile that Pittsburgh has. But to the students and professors of Carnegie Mellon University, it has been a long time coming. The future is here and it is beginning right in your back yard.

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