EVERY DAY AROUND 10m people take an Uber. The company has made ride-hailing commonplace in more than 600 cities in 82 countries. But the Volvo XC90 picking its way through traffic on a wintry morning in Pittsburgh is no ordinary Uber.
Climb into the back, and you will see a screen mounted between the front seats, showing a digital representation of the world around the car, with other vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists highlighted as clusters of blue dots. Tap the screen to say you are ready to leave, and the car starts to move. But no one is driving it. This Uber is an autonomous vehicle (AV)—a car that can drive itself.
Admittedly, Uber’s self-driving robotaxi has a human sitting in the driving seat, but only to take over if something unexpected happens. The car drives carefully but confidently in downtown traffic.