Uber’s launching self-driving cars for the San Francisco public today

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Uber riders in San Francisco will be greeted with self-driving cars from today, after the etaxi giant announced an expansion of its autonomous vehicle program.

Uber has been testing self-driving cars in the wild for a while, but back in September the company opened things up to the public for the first time via a trial in Pittsburgh. Now, it’s San Francisco’s turn, with a fleet of Volvo XC90 autonomous vehicles being made available through the UberX service.

There is no specific way of requesting a self-driving car — if one’s available, you may be allocated one. And the cars aren’t completely human-free — there are operators in the back- and front-seat “monitoring” things to intervene if need be. This is a key point, considering that there has been some controversy around whether Uber actually needs a testing permit to launch in San Francisco. Naturally, Uber thinks it’s in the clear.