Ride-sharing service Uber is following the lead of automakers and technology companies and has begun testing its own autonomous vehicle on public roads.
The hybrid Ford Fusion test car has been created at Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center (ATC) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and in the next few weeks it will start collecting mapping data, as well as testing its self-driving capabilities, on the city’s streets.
When it is in self-driving mode, a trained driver will be in the driver’s seat monitoring operations and will be able to take over full control of the vehicle at any time. The Uber ATC car is equipped with a variety of sensors, including radars, laser scanners and high-resolution cameras to map details of its environment. The company will keep local officials and law enforcement informed about its testing schedule, and Uber is keen to point out that its work in the city would not be possible without the support it has received from the region’s leaders.
Real-world testing is critical to the company’s efforts to develop self-driving technology, which Uber says has the potential to save millions of lives by eliminating human error on the road, and improve the quality of life for people around the world. In the future, the company believes the technology will mean less congestion, more affordable and accessible transportation, and far fewer lives lost in car accidents. These goals are at the heart of Uber’s stated mission to ‘make transportation as reliable as running water; everywhere and for everyone’.
While the company is still in the early days of its self-driving program, it says that every day of testing will lead to improvements, and currently it is focused on getting the technology right to ensure it is safe for everyone on the road pedestrians, cyclists and other drivers. Uber says it chose Pittsburgh as the home of its Advanced Technologies Center because of the city’s world-class engineering talent and research facilities, with the city being an ideal environment to develop and test its technology across a wide variety of road types, traffic patterns and weather conditions.
A keen supporter of the program, William Peduto, Mayor of Pittsburgh, commented, “From the first steel mills to the laboratories at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh has a long history of innovation. Now we’re taking another step forward, this time as home to Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center, where some of the world’s leading innovators are helping to shape the future of transportation. We’re excited that Uber has chosen the Steel City as it explores new technologies that can improve people’s lives, through increased road safety, less congestion, and more efficient and smarter cities.”