PITTSBURGH — Uber founder and CEO Travis Kalanick held a press conference at Carnegie-Mellon University earlier today to announce the new UberTOUR service, a fleet of self-driving tour vans for musicians featuring the ability to automatically and unpredictably flip during late-night drives.
“We’re not in the car business, we’re in the user experience business,” said Kalanick from Carnegie-Mellon’s National Robotics Engineering Center, Uber’s research partner in developing autonomous vehicles. “And we are committed to providing unprecedented service for touring rock bands as Uber makes monumental strides in the autonomous automobile industry.”
Kalanick emphasized Uber will provide a “100% authentic and holistic touring experience,” mimicking what touring bands have come to expect on road trips across the United States. “State-of-the-art 1993 Ford Econoline 350s will be programmed to spontaneously roll into ditches, swerve off the road, blow a tire, run out of gas, get lost — any number of vehicular mishaps that are all too common for the touring rock band,” he said.
Engineers hope to program additional unnecessary and ironic roadside attraction stops along the route “just to eat up time,” with one prototype including an algorithm re-directing vehicles to the Corn Palace in Mitchell, S.D. if the user is within 100 miles.
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Despite the list of seemingly hazardous features, Kalanick took pains to calm public concern over dangerous driving conditions, adding that early adopters “…will be supervised by a human in the passenger seat who also does merch.”
Veteran touring band Dog People, one of UberTOUR’s initial test groups, overcame early skepticism to become devout advocates. “Uber paid close attention to details. Ours had a complimentary half-drank tall boy in the cup holder and crushed up pack of smokes between the bench cushions,” said drummer Elena Richardson. “The rearview mirror-hanging odorizer is a nice touch, too.”
The fleet is scheduled to hit the streets in October, “just in time for an east coast leg down to the Fest,” said Kalanick.