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By Allen L Phillips

UBER announced in late August that it will begin testing driverless taxis in Pittsburg in September.  UBER's self-driving research lab is based in Pittsburg and the city offers many challenges to the technology with its many bridges, tunnels and hills, in addition to GPS confounding one-way streets and narrow roads.  And then there's the weather.  If driverless taxis can succeed in Pittsburg, they can succeed almost anywhere.

An UBER engineer will be in the driver's seat ready to take over in case things go wrong, but otherwise the fleet of Fords and Volvos will be capable of driving themselves.  Riders will have the option of whether to use the self-driving cars but UBER will be offering the rides free as an inducement.

The engineers in the cars will not be allowed to speak to passengers.  The goal, says UBER, is to wean us off of having a driver in the car.  It's now accepted that driverless cars, once perfected, will be safer, more efficient and better for the environment.  And UBER predicts that hailing a driverless taxi will one day be cheaper than owning a vehicle.

While early adaptation will largely be in major cities, one of UBER's motivations is the elimination of the driver.  They have been fending off legal assaults on their business model which treats driver's as independent contractors wherein UBER is not responsible for workers compensation or health insurance.  Eliminating drivers obviously solves this problem.

Most of the information in the above article was found in the September 2nd issue of The Week.

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