Uber's autonomous vehicles drove more than two million miles as of late December, as revealed by the head of the company's Advanced Technologies Group Eric Meyhofer, Forbes reports. The development comes just three months after Uber's fleet hit the million-mile mark and two and a half years after the San Francisco, California-based startup established its self-driving project. Mr. Meyhofer acknowledged the challenges Uber's autonomous vehicle unit faced over the course of this year, including losing its now-former head Anthony Levandowski who was fired after Alphabet's Waymo accused him of stealing a number of its trade secrets and utilizing them for Uber's own initiative. That particular case is yet to move to trial in early 2018 and may have serious implications for the ride-hailing firm's self-driving ambitions but for the time being, its research and development unit is carrying on as best as it can, as suggested by Mr. Meyhofer's comments.
The fact that the program managed to accumulate million more miles in just 100 days is primarily attributed to the rapid growth of Uber's autonomous vehicle fleet which now boasts more than 200 cars, having recently doubled the number of its prototypes. Testing efforts are expected to be ramped up in 2018 as Uber's engineers need as much data as possible to verify the reliability of the software controlling the cars. Self-driving vehicles are still being positioned as an integral component of Uber's long-term sustainability, even if its new Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi initially wasn't as convinced in the viability of such business strategy as his predecessor Travis Kalanick was. Uber's autonomous fleet is set to start expanding in an even more rapid manner over the course of the next year, primarily due to the firm's recently established partnership with Volvo.
Unlike many other tech giants pursuing autonomous driving technologies, Uber is solely focused on creating an automated ride-hailing network and not building driverless solutions meant for other purposes, as Mr. Meyhofer is quick to point out. The firm's internal roadmap for the technology haven't yet been publicized, presumably due to regulatory uncertainty surrounding this emerging technology. Some estimates are describing self-driving commercialization as an endeavor that won't come to fruition for at least another five years even if such solutions will be ready for prime time much sooner.