If you're an Uber skeptic worried about getting in a car with a murderer or rapist, the company may have just embarked on a project to allay at least one of your fears. The ride hailing service announced a partnership with the University of Arizona on Tuesday to explore the adoption of driverless car technology.
While Google may be the biggest name in self-driving cars, Uber's $25,000 grant to UofA's College of Optical Sciences will help improve the real-time mapping technology that is essential in guiding robotic drivers through city streets.
"We'll work with some of the leading experts in lens design here at the university to improve the imagery of what we capture and use to build out mapping and our safety features," Brian McClendon, vice president of advanced technology for the company, told the Associated Press.
While the grant is a small step on the path towards a world of autonomous cars, the research may come as some relief for consumers. Uber has long endured horror stories from users, and the company recently came under fire for the shoddy background checks used to vet potential drivers.
This announcement came at a news conference held by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey on Tuesday. An Uber supporter, Ducey signed an Executive Order supporting the testing and operation of self-driving vehicles in Arizona, presumably clearing the way for Uber's growth.
When taken with the purchase of the digital mapping specialist deCarta and hiring of 40 Carnegie Mellon University robotics researchers and scientists at their Pittsburgh tech center, it's clear that unmanned Uber cars are a definite possibility for the company's future.
Photos by Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post via Getty Images