Uber, the smartphone app that has taken the cab industry by storm, will open a technology centre near the Carnegie Mellon University to help put driverless cars on the road.

The e-hail service has got black cabs in a twist in London and was criticised for diminishing New York’s yellow cab supply after the majority of drivers defected to the app. Now it is muscling in on the car manufacturer’s patch with its investment in autonomous car research.

London's black cab drivers protested against the smartphone app last year ©iStock/Johnny Grieg
London's black cab drivers protested against the smartphone app last year ©iStock/Johnny Grieg

The research team, based near the Carnegie Mellon campus in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, will focus on mapping, car safety technology and driverless robotics.

Uber’s chief product officer Jeff Holden said: “We are excited to join the community of Pittsburgh and partner with the experts at CMU, whose breadth and depth of technical expertise, particularly in robotics, are unmatched. As a global leader in urban transportation, we have the unique opportunity to invest in leading edge technologies to enable the safe and efficient movement of people and things at giant scale. This collaboration and the creation of the Uber Advanced Technologies Centre represent an important investment in building for the long term of Uber.”

Uber will fund graduate fellowships as well as chair-person positions at the faculty.

One other tech firm, Google, has been vocal about its hopes to bring the first driverless car to our roads. It opened its resarch arm in 2013; however, a study of listed patents revealed that the internet giant is lagging behind European and American carmakers when it comes to inventing and patenting driverless features.