After Uber initially launched their self-driving cars on public roads in San Francisco, then were kicked out by the DMV, Uber has brought their vehicles back to the Bay Area. This time, legally. Back in December, Uber announced that they had brought their self-driving cars to San Francisco and that they were picking up passengers and dropping them off. Each car had a "safety driver" included, in case the driver needed to take over on the self-driving car. Uber opted not to apply for the permit needed, because it argued that their cars were not autonomous since they had a driver. Shortly thereafter, Uber packed up their Volvo's and took them to Arizona. However, now a few of these cars are back in San Francisco.
According to Uber, these five Volvo's that are back in San Francisco are strictly for mapping. In fact, an Uber spokesperson stated on Wednesday that these are cars are only driven by humans and that the self-driving technology has been turned off. So essentially these are Uber's version of the Google Street View cars that you'll see roaming around getting data. This is still an important aspect for Uber's self-driving future. As the computers are going to need to know where every street is, and how to get there. And with Uber using its own mapping service, it can do that much easier than by relying on another company like Google, or Here Maps.
Uber does still have self-driving cars on the streets of Pittsburgh, picking up passengers. However there aren't a ton of them out there, and you may or may not see them when you order your Uber. The ride-sharing company believes that self-driving or autonomous cars are the future for ride-sharing. This is because they believe that many people will opt to no longer have a car and simply ride-share or car-share in the near future. That's something that auto makers also agree on, and it's a big reason why General Motors has invested in Uber's rival, Lyft. As well as creating Maven, for sharing cars. Allowing people to essentially rent a car by the hour or by the day.