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Ride-hailing service Uber rolls out Driverless Cars in San Francisco with mission of Reliable Transportation Everywhere for Everyone

Uber tested autonomous cars earlier this year in Pittsburgh, but on a limited scale

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Uber began testing self-driving cars in Pittsburgh and is now rolling out the service in San Francisco. (Uber), VOA

Dec 14, 2016: Ride-hailing service Uber has rolled out driverless cars in San Francisco, the second American city the company has targeted.

Uber tested autonomous cars earlier this year in Pittsburgh, but on a limited scale. The San Francisco rollout is expected to be larger.

Uber users in San Francisco will be the first to have a chance to ride in the company’s self-driving vehicle, which is a Volvo XC90 SUV equipped with LIDAR, a radar-type system that uses lasers as well as cameras and computers to navigate.

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“The promise of self-driving is core to our mission of reliable transportation everywhere for everyone,” Anthony Levandowski, Uber’s vice president of self-driving technology, said in a blog post.

Several tech companies have been or are exploring driverless cars, but Uber appears to have the advantage now.

Earlier this week, Alphabet, the parent company of Google, said it was spinning off its effort into a company called Waymo, a possible indication the cars are nearly ready to be tested in the real world. Tesla, Lyft and others are also working on autonomous cars.

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While the Pittsburgh launch was limited to a few frequent users within a small area, Uber says in San Francisco any passenger choosing an UberX ride, one of the cheaper options, could be picked up by a driverless car. The customer will have a choice to accept a driverless car or a regular driver.

As in Pittsburgh, an Uber employee will still be in the car in case of malfunction.

According to The New York Times, it was not clear if Uber legally could test driverless cars in San Francisco as it was not listed as a company holding a permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

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An Uber spokeswoman told the paper the company was “compliant with applicable federal and state laws.”

“We are not planning to operate any differently than in Pittsburgh, where our pilot has been running successfully for several months,” wrote Levandowski. “Second, the rules apply to cars that can drive without someone controlling or monitoring them. For us, it’s still early days and our cars are not yet ready to drive without a person monitoring them.” (VOA)

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Uber Incorporates Several Changes to its App for Drivers to Improve their Experience

Earlier in May, ride-hailing drivers in cities across the US went on strike to protest unfair pay, poor working conditions and lack of transparency from Uber

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Photo shows an exterior view of the headquarters of Uber in San Francisco. (VOA)

Amid rising tensions over workers rights, global ride-hailing major Uber has incorporated several changes to its app for drivers to improve the experience for both newer as well as seasoned drivers.

Uber is testing out several new features for drivers, including a scrolling feed of promotions and gamified ‘quests’ that would be viewable before drivers sign in to start driving, The Verge reported on Thursday.

For newer drivers, there would be a ‘simulated trip’ to walk them through the virtual steps of their first ride before they commit to actually picking up passengers.

The update on Uber’s app comes at a time when ride-hailing drivers are supporting legislation in California that would reclassify them as employees rather than contractors.

The app would also give notifications to drivers for longer than average trips.

Uber app.

When drivers need to cancel a trip, the app would allow them to specify the reasons why – while a new feature would automatically accept the next trip to help the drivers earn the ‘consecutive trip’ bonus paid out by Uber, the report said.

Critics have dismissed these ‘gamified’ features as psychological tricks meant to keep drivers on the road longer.

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However, Uber argues that these features are popular with drivers because they often put more money in their pockets.

Earlier in May, ride-hailing drivers in cities across the US went on strike to protest unfair pay, poor working conditions and lack of transparency from Uber. (IANS)