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Self-driving cars are ready to start picking up passengers in NYC

Self-driving cars are ready to start picking up passengers in NYC
Photograph: Courtesy Optimus Ride

The only thing that can fix New York’s reputation for terrible driving may actually be just getting rid of the drivers themselves. Driverless cars will be arriving in NYC on Wednesday to shuttle passengers around a loop just over a mile long in Brooklyn Navy Yard, tucked away from any busy streets. The autonomous cars will be free and will offer rides seven days a week to anyone who needs a lift to and from and the recently opened ferry landing.

As the technology of autonomous cars advances, there has been debate over the benefits of introducing the cars to already overpopulated NYC roads. Some people say that having driverless vehicles is safer than getting into an Uber or Taxi, but the technology may not be at the level required of it yet. The first pedestrian death from an autonomous car happened last year to a woman walking her bike on a road in Tempe, Arizona, and three Tesla drivers have died from activating the autopilot feature over the past couple of years. 

Optimus Ride, a start up founded in 2015 by five graduates and researchers from MIT, is the company behind the autonomous cars appearing tomorrow in Brooklyn, and has no history of accidents related to their vehicles. They have provided more than 20,000 autonomous vehicle rides around Boston’s seaport neighborhood and a residential community in South Weymouth, Massachusetts. As of now, the cars always have two people on every ride, one to collect data to continue to improve the technology and another to take over if anything goes wrong. Tomorrow, the cars will be programmed to obey all traffic laws and not be able to go over 15 miles an hour.

Brooklyn Navy Yard has been a popular place to test out new technology over the years such as drones and Citi bikes due to its lax regulations compared to the city’s open public streets. As the technology continues to be tested, it’s probably only a matter of time before you start to see these autonomous cars cruising right alongside you on busy city streets.

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