Uber is launching its first self-driving car in Pittsburgh, and some residents have the choice of going about their day in an Uber that drives itself.
If a Self-Driving Uber is available, Uber will send it along with a safety driver up front to make sure the ride goes smoothly. Otherwise it’s uberX as usual.
Self-Driving Ubers have a safety driver in the front seat because they require human intervention in many conditions, including bad weather. Even when these technology issues get fixed, Uber executives believe ridesharing will be a mix—with services provided by both drivers and Self-Driving Ubers. This is because of the limits of self-driving software.
Uber's Pittsburgh fleet consists of Ford Fusion cars outfitted with 3D cameras, global positioning systems (GPS) and a technology called lidar that uses lasers to assess the shape and distance of objects, mounted somewhat crudely to the vehicle's roof. The company is also outfitting Volvo SUVs that will be added to the fleet.
The pilot program marks the public unveiling of the company's work in autonomous vehicles and the first time self-driving cars have been so freely available to the U.S. public.
A year and a half ago, Uber set up an Advanced Technologies Center (ATC) in Pittsburgh. Its mission was to make self-driving Ubers a reality.
San Francisco-based Uberis competing in a crowded field. From Alphabet and Baidu to Tesla Motors and General Motors Co, technology companies and automakers are hustling to build autonomous vehicles and develop new business plans for what is expected to be a long-term makeover of personal transportation.