Business Insider is reporting Uber has purchased 596 acres near Pittsburg to establish a test track for self-driving cars.
Uber has been in the news a lot lately, and not all of it good. The company recently released a safety report detailing nine murders and thousands of sexual assaults that have occurred in Uber rides. In addition, the company was banned in Germany last week due to it not having the necessary license to transport customers in rental vehicles. The use of rental vehicles was already a modification of its business model the company was using to get around German restrictions preventing it from “matching customers with drivers using their own vehicles, as it does in the U.S.”
In addition to these problems, the company is facing increasing challenges regarding the legal definition of employees. California is just one example where laws could potentially alter Uber’s business model by classifying its drivers as employees, rather than contractors.
In view of these challenges, it’s little wonder the company is looking at self-driving cars as the answer moving forward. Self-driving cars could eliminate the need for driver background checks, employee vs contractor debates and could be the ultimate answer to bans like Germany has imposed—provided self-driving cars become widely accepted.
One of the biggest obstacles to adoption is ensuring the safety of self-driving cars. The new testing area will employ approximately 200 people and have an observation deck. Pittsburg is the center of Uber’s self-driving research and development, with the company also creating a fake city there—complete with roaming mannequins that jump out without warning—for testing the technology.
The new testing ground should give Uber plenty of room to test a variety of scenarios.