Uber, the world’s largest ride-hailing app company was never the one to hide its interest in self-driving cars and autonomous vehicles in general. Not just in terms of purchasing self-driving cars which would potentially replace some or most of its drivers like its CEO Travis Kalanick suggested in the past, but also in the context of creating driverless vehicles on its own. That stance isn’t particularly surprising given how the nature of the majority of user complaints on Uber seems to have something to do with its drivers. And while the company’s Pittsburgh Advanced Technologies Center has yet to produce a driverless car, Uber seems to be back on track to purchase some autonomous vehicles from other automakers.
Specifically, according to reports which surfaced yesterday afternoon, Uber has recently been busy with approaching several carmakers in regards to buying significant amounts of self-driving cars. While the exact nature of their inquiries is still unclear, one source claims that the ride-hailing service company was seemingly “shopping around.” As to whom they might have contacted, apart from the usual “suspect” when it comes to autonomous vehicles – Google – a number of large automakers like BMW, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz are also known to be working on driverless cars. All of them seem to be closer and closer to releasing an autonomous car each year as more and more automated features are getting included in their models, but no car maker has done so to this date. Still, that doesn’t mean a self-driving car from – say – BMW isn’t right around the corner and it’s possible that Uber is actually looking to be the first major customer of whoever gets to be the first to release an autonomous vehicle on the market.
In the meantime, Uber seems to be settling for more traditional and only somewhat automated cars as the company allegedly ordered a bit over 100,000 of the new S-Class Mercedes models. However, that’s yet to be confirmed as there are also conflicting reports claiming that the company only inquired about the availability of such a volume of cars and hasn’t yet purchased them. The model in question definitely wasn’t chosen at random, though, as it has the ability to park itself, automatically handle stop-and-go traffic, and maintain a safe distance from other vehicles. And while it seems that Uber will still be paying actual human drivers in the near future, driverless taxis aren’t just a dream of the long-distant future. On the contrary, South Korea’s been testing such vehicles for several months now.