Uber Self-Driving Car Hits Pittsburgh’s Streets
Uber began testing self-driving cars in Pittsburgh weeks ago but finally confirmed the tests for the first time. Uber's self-driving Ford Fusion hybrid, which is in the early testing stages, will be collecting mapping data as well as testing its self-driving capabilities.
Uber has finally confirmed that it’s testing its own self-driving cars in Pittsburgh. Uber’s self-driving car, a Ford Fusion hybrid, is in the early testing stages and will be collecting mapping data as well as testing its self-driving capabilities.
Uber’s self-driving car has a human in the driver’s seat at all times just in case.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review had a chance to go for a ride in Uber’s self-driving car, which “had 22 coffee cup-sized camera lenses, a whirling laser on the roof and laser sensors at the corners. Its cameras, sensors and laser can see more than 100 meters in all directions.” Here’s what reporter Aaron Aupperlee said about the drive:
“The car drove itself over the 31st Street Bridge and along River Avenue on the North Side before turning around at the Heinz Lofts. The car will accelerate, brake, steer and perform other basic functions on its own. It switches out of self-driving mode with a loud beep if its sensors detect a car swerving into its lane or it encounters something it does not recognize or know how to negotiate. The driver can take control of the car at anytime.
“The car’s sensors detected parked cars sticking out into traffic, jaywalkers, bicyclists and a goose crossing River Avenue.”
Why Uber Self-Driving Cars Are in Pittsburgh
Uber said it chose Pittsburgh for self-driving car tests because of the city’s world-class engineering talent and research facilities. But John Bares, head of Uber’s Pittsburgh lab, told the Tribune-Review that the city’s narrow and hilly streets, haphazard parking, rainy and snowy weather and aging infrastructure make Pittsburgh a challenging place to test self-driving cars.
Uber’s self-driving Ford Fusion hybrid drives itself along North Shore Drive in Pittsburgh. (Photo Credit: Uber via Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)/
“We have the world’s best test site right at our doorstep,” Bares said. “We view it as, it’s not quite Everest, but it’s a hard mountain ... but the beautiful thing is we do have that mountain right out of our front door to climb.”
Uber’s Self-Driving Car Efforts
Uber recently joined Ford, Google, Lyft and Volvo in the formation of the “Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets” coalition that hopes to speed up the time to market for self-driving cars. The coalition will “work with lawmakers, regulators and the public to realize the safety and societal benefits of self-driving vehicles.” The five companies, which all are working on self-driving cars, said one of the first tasks is to “work with civic organizations, municipalities and businesses to bring the vision of self-driving vehicles to America’s roads and highways.
Uber made a string of significant moves in 2015 that pointed to the development of self-driving taxis. Not only did Uber announce a self-driving car partnership with the University of Arizona, it raided the robotics lab at Carnegie Mellon and made several major hires that included former Google head of mapping Brian McClendon.
At the annual TED conference, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said it’s likely to take a lot longer for self-driving cars to officially hit the roads. He also said that when self-driving cars become reality, they won’t change the world overnight. “It’s also going to be a long transition,” Kalanick said. “They will work in certain places and not in others.”