Ride-hailing firm Uber on Monday announced a partnership agreement with Carnegie Mellon University for opening a robotics research center, fueling speculations over the company’s interest in self-driving cars.
In a blog, the company said, “The Uber Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh will focus on the development of major long-term technologies that advance Uber’s mission of bringing safe, reliable transportation to everyone, everywhere.”
Uber, however, not clearly mentioned about the self-driving cars, but said that the employees and students of Carnegie Mellon would work with the company in conducting research work and develop a proper mapping, safety of vehicle and autonomy technology.
Thilo Koslowski, vice president and automotive practice leader at research company Gartner, said this is an obvious indication from Uber that it wants to build technology related to self-driving cars.
“The firm is now recognizing it needs a magic sauce on the tech side to make sure no one can quickly get to where it is. It’s recognizing it needs a technological innovation to add to the existing app,” Koslowski said.
Uber is a big name in the ride-hailing industry, but still the need to experiment with new creativity to have an edge over its rivals, he said.
According to Koslowski, the investment in autonomous technology will help the company to offer customers something different from its competitors can’t and maintain the lead in the market.
“I think what they will do is offer an after-market device, potentially something that can be installed in vehicles already on the market today, and their drivers can buy or lease them. This way, Uber can say its vehicles are even better and safer for customers, which will increase the market entry barrier and make it harder for competitors to catch up,” Koslowski said.
Addressing last year’s Re-Code’s Code conference, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick had said that he preferred the idea of self-driving cars and also saw great potential for them to lower costs.
Both Uber and Carnegie Mellon were unavailable for comment.