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Commissioner Wants Self-Driving Ubers in Miami Beach

Commissioner Wants Self-Driving Ubers in Miami Beach
Courtesy of Uber
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Most citygoers love Uber, but taxi drivers can't stand the ride-sharing app. The company has successfully "disrupted" the taxi industry, put drivers out of business, and led to mass protests in the United States and Europe. Now Uber's new business model could put its own drivers out of business: The company has launched a pilot program in Pittsburgh, where self-driving cars ferry Uber passengers from stop to stop.

As the app continues to test its self-driving cars, at least one Miami Beach commissioner wants to offer the barrier island as Uber's next testing ground. At today's city commission meeting, Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez asked the city's Neighborhood/Community Affairs Committee to discuss bringing the tech to the Beach.

"Such a pilot program is a big step forward, as real-world testing is critical to the success of this technology," Rosen Gonzalez's ordinance reads. "Self-driving Ubers have the potential to reduce traffic accidents, free up parking, and cut congestion."

If the measure moves forward, both taxi drivers — a prominent group of workers in tourist-centric Miami Beach — and Uber and Lyft drivers across town would likely put up a fight. Once the measure is referred to committee, the commissioners will discuss the proposal at the city's next Neighborhood/Community Affairs Committee meeting on January 27.

Uber's pilot programs, which have also been launched in California, Pennsylvania and Arizona, have caused significant uproar around the country. The company's first pilot program launched in Pittsburgh last September and largely continued without a hitch.

But in December, Uber defied the advice of government officials and launched a self-driving pilot program in its Bay Area hometown. The program lasted only a week, after the California Department of Motor Vehicles began revoking the registrations of Uber's self-driving vehicles.

The company then announced it would move those driver-free cars to Arizona.

The trials have sparked a wave of panic among professional drivers in most industries, who fear the rapidly advancing self-driving-car technology will put more and more of them out of jobs in the next decade.

More than 5 million Americans make a living as some sort of professional driver, and labor advocates fear that nearly all of those jobs could be replaced by robots in the next few decades.

However, driverless cars have been proven to cut down on both road congestion and traffic accidents, two issues plaguing traffic-clogged Miami Beach. Fewer Uber drivers also means fewer Uber-driving shenanigans, whether they be superweird live-streams of bank robberies or stand-your-ground shootings by armed drivers.

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