Uber riders in Pittsburgh can get a look at the future by summoning a car capable of handling most of the tasksof driving all alone. Beginning Wednesday morning, a fleet of self-driving Ford Fusions will get Uber riders who selected to take an interest in a test program. While the vehicles are loaded with features that allow them to navigate on their own, an Uber engineer will sit in the driver’s seat and seize control if things go awry.
Uber’s test project is the most recent move in an undeniably heated race between tech companies in Silicon Valley and traditional automakers to perfect fully driverless cars for regular people. Contenders, for example, Volvo and Google have invested a huge number of dollars and logged a huge number of miles test driving independent vehicles, yet Uber is the primary company in the U.S. to make self-driving autos accessible to the overall population.
“That pilot really pushes the ball forward for us,” said Raffi Krikorian, Director of Uber Advanced Technologies Center (ATC) in Pittsburgh, the company’s main facility for testing self-driving vehicles. “We think it can help with congestion, we think it can make transportation cheaper and more accessible for the vast majority of people.”
Removing the cost of the driver is one way to make rides more affordable. But that prospect didn’t sit well with some Uber customers.
“It scares me not to have a driver there with an Uber,” said Claudia Tyler, a health executive standing near the entrance of an office in downtown Pittsburgh.
A reporter from The Associated Press tried out the service Monday. The ride through downtown Pittsburgh and over some bridges went smoothly, with the car waiting for oncoming traffic before making a turn and at one point stopping for a vehicle that was backing into a parking space. Parking, however, was a task the human driver had to perform. Approaches to driverless technology differ. Google, a unit of Alphabet, and Ford Motor Co. want to perfect the fully driverless car, no steering wheel, no pedals, before letting the public climb in for a ride. Others are adding autonomous features in phases, while relying on the driver to take over in certain circumstances.
The Uber vehicles are equipped with everything from seven traffic-light detecting cameras to a radar system that detects different weather conditions to 20 spinning lasers that generates a continuous, 360 degree 3D map of the surrounding environment. Amid the show for reporters two engineers were seated in front, one prepared to take control in the event that the auto experienced a circumstance it couldn’t deal with, the other observing the auto’s 3D map and writing notes on the most proficient method to enhance the auto’s software. The engineers must experience a week of security orientation or more to drive the cars, with extra training as the vehicles keep on being refined.
Pittsburgh is an especially decent place to test, they said, on the grounds that the city is a research hub of self-driving cars and has famously awful driving conditions, including snowstorms, rolling hills and a tangled network of aging roads and bridges. Uber officials are watching to perceive how the cars handle these difficulties before saying when completely driverless vehicles will be prepared to hit the streets.