After launching in Pittsburgh earlier this year, Uber’s self-driving cars have made their way to San Francisco. As is the case with the Pittsburgh roll out, Uber‘s self-driving fleet in San Francisco won’t be fully autonomous. In other words, if you were looking forward to a ride in an otherwise empty car, you’re not going to find it on an Uber trip.
Instead, you’ll be joined by two people. One of those people will be in the driver’s seat, there for the moments when an actual human is needed for finer control. Your driver will be joined by a person in the passenger seat, who will be taking notes and collecting data about the trip.
Make no mistake though: for the most part, these Volvo XC90s will be making their way to destinations around San Francisco mostly on their own. From today, if you hail an Uber ride to a location within the city, there’s a chance that you’ll be matched with a self-driving car. Beyond that, though, your Uber experience should be mostly familiar.
Interestingly, Uber seems to be taking some sort of risk when it comes to the local laws of San Francisco. It notes in a blog post that it has not obtained a permit for testing autonomous vehicles in San Francisco, and doesn’t believe it needs to. Ultimately, Uber isn’t the one to make that call, but it points out that the city’s permit requirement applies to cars that can drive completely on their own.
Since Uber’s fleet of self-driving Volvo XC90s still need someone behind the wheel to take control when the need arises, it could be exempt for that requirement. We’ll just have to wait and see what the city of San Francisco says (if it has anything to say at all), but for now, Uber believes it’s in the clear. Assuming this San Francisco test is a success, it shouldn’t be much longer before we see Uber’s self-driving fleet move to a new city, so stay tuned.