Transportation network company Uber will open an autonomous vehicle research center in Wixom in the first quarter of this year. Uber Technologies Inc.'s head executive for global vehicle development confirmed this at the Automotive News World Congress at the Renaissance Center.
Uber's vice president for global vehicle systems, Sherif Marakby, first announced the company's plan to establish a metro Detroit technology outpost in September, but the location was unknown that time. Previously, he said that the Detroit area like Pittsburgh can also become a trial ground for Uber's autonomous-driving hailing service.
Marakby said that the research center in Wixom will serve as the company's testing field to integrate autonomy into different automakers' vehicles. Although the company is trying its best to perfect the self-driving vehicles, Marakby assured that the drivers' jobs are not in danger.
Marakby explained the rapid growth of ride-hailing services in regions like, Paris, Los Angeles, London, and cities in Southeast Asia. Uber's research shows that demands for ride-hailing usually peaks during early morning and late evening.
Some customers criticized Uber for 'surge pricing' during peak demand. The only reason for releasing self-driving vehicles is to reduce costs to carpoolers during peak demand times in which rates can be five times higher than normal, Marakby said.
The company has enough active drivers where they are expected to show up within seven minutes after requesting for a ride through the company's app. Marakby said in a press conference that ride-hailing services will not affect new-car sales. Most automakers today used to see the increase in numbers of sales and eventually, Uber will wear out and carmakers will still provide parts and services.
As part of his job, the Ford veteran Marakby will help the company to integrate Uber-developed software and hardware into the company's self-driving cars. In addition, Uber announced its plan to a launch a project for 20 self-driving Ford Fusions in Pittsburgh.