The company has done similar mapping and data collection in Toronto and San Francisco. After mapping city streets, company officials said Uber may launch self-driving cars in parts of the city.
(TNS) — Ride-hailing giant Uber Technologies plans to map streets and gather data in downtown Dallas this fall to help support its development of self-driving cars.
The San Francisco-based company said today in a blog post that it will start driving two SUVs around the city in early November to better understand how self-driving cars could safely navigate roads, handle traffic patterns and operate in the Texas climate. The white Volvo SUVs will be manually -- not autonomously -- driven by Uber employees.
Uber has done similar mapping and data collection in Toronto and San Francisco. After mapping Dallas streets, company officials said Uber may launch self-driving cars in parts of the city.
"The deciding factor will be whenever we know that we can safely, reliably operate in a given area of Dallas, given the current abilities of our self-driving system," said Sarah Abboud, a spokeswoman for Uber's Advanced Technologies Group. She said the company would consult the public and local officials before operating cars autonomously.
Uber's mapping in Dallas signals that the company is pressing ahead with its self-driving ambitions, despite a public and tragic setback. The company halted its testing in Arizona last year after the first-ever pedestrian fatality by a self-driving car. Since going public in May, it has also struggled to reassure investors that it can turn its lofty vision for transportation into a profitable company.
Since the Arizona tragedy, Uber has announced new safety protocols and shown off a new version of a self-driving car that it developed with Volvo. It's continued to operate self-driving cars in San Francisco and on a test track and a real-world environment in Pittsburgh, the headquarters of its Advanced Technologies Group.
Uber is significantly ramping up its Dallas presence. It announced last month that it would open an at least 3,000-person office in Deep Ellum, with plans to turn it into the company's largest corporate hub outside of San Francisco. The company said it will hire or relocate about 400 employees to Dallas by the end of the year and grow its headcount over the next several years. Most employees at the office will have administrative roles, such as finance, human resources and sales.
Dallas was the first city to get Uber's ride-hailing service in 2012. Uber chose Dallas as one of the first cities where it plans to test its urban air taxi service, Uber Air. The company also has a contract with Dallas Area Rapid Transit that subsidizes rides within a few miles of some light-rail and bus stations.
Abboud said Uber picked Dallas for mapping because of its strong relationship with local officials and its location in a state that's friendly to self-driving cars. A Texas law allows self-driving cars on the state's roads and highways, so long as they comply with traffic laws and have video recording devices and insurance.
Other self-driving car and truck companies, including Silicon Valley-based Drive.ai, have done testing in Texas, too. Apple bought Drive.ai in June to boost its self-driving efforts.
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