The plan seemed audacious, even reckless. And according to most analysts, true self-driving cars are years or decades away. Kalanick begs to differ. “We are going commercial,” he says in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek. “This can’t just be about science.” […] 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.
Even given the various hedges, specifically that these cars still have drivers in them and that it’s a test program running only in Pittsburgh, this is huge news. I imagine there are various meetings going on right now at Apple, Google, Tesla, Ford, and more, where people are throwing their laptops. While there’s a lot of technological barriers to success still, the biggest hurdle, I’d argue, is still the hearts and minds of the people. I’ve heard many times that people think self-driving cars are cool, but “they wouldn’t want to beta test it” and “like to be able to control their vehicle.” This is a step in both advancing the technological front and changing the culture, all while being “first to market.”
We should expect responses from competitors.