DETROIT -- Although Uber is working to perfect self-driving vehicles, drivers’ jobs are not endangered, said Sherif Marakby, vice president of global vehicle systems for the ride-hailing service.
Speaking Wednesday at the Automotive News World Congress, Marakby said a key reason for deploying self-driving vehicles is to reduce costs to consumers during peak demand times in which prices can be as much as five times higher. Some Uber customers have criticized “surge pricing” – higher rates during peak demand -- as a form of gouging.
“Automated vehicle technology is getting more and more ready to happen,” Marakby said, “and Uber wants to be part of it. We don’t see automated vehicles as taking over completely. The biggest problem in ride-sharing is supply -- having enough drivers in peak times. Automated vehicles will help smooth out surge times.”
To help speed up development of self-driving vehicles, Uber plans to open a technical center in suburban Detroit. The reason: to be closer to Tier 1 suppliers and automakers.
“The main focus [of the Advanced Technical Group] is integration of autonomy into vehicles,” Marakby said. Many engineers were coming to Detroit on day trips to visit with suppliers. It just felt right to have a place here where engineers could work with suppliers and original equipment manufacturers.”
Marakby, 50, a 25-year Ford Motor Co. veteran, joined Uber in April 2015. His job is to oversee the integration of hardware and Uber-developed software into the company’s self-driving vehicles.
In a question-and-answer session, Marakby said ride-hailing and ride-sharing services will not hurt new-car sales. He said that most vehicles today are used only 4 percent of the time. Cars being used by such services will see that number increase, which will cause them to wear out faster, he said, and automakers will still provide parts and service.
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