Uber's autonomous vehicle test in Pittsburgh is just the beginning of the company's big ambitions.
Uber began testing an autonomous Ford Fusion Hybrid on the undulating roads in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, just a few months ago, and the leading ridesharing service in the United States has now begun letting customers take journeys in these self-driving vehicles. There’s still a driver behind the wheel case something goes wrong, but the video above shows that these sensor-laden sedans can largely handle the job by themselves.
These vehicles remain part of a pilot program, and Uber users can’t yet specifically request a ride in the autonomous Ford. Instead, the company says it is reserving them for “our most loyal Pittsburgh customers.” If one is nearby when a person hails a car, the client gets to arrive at the destination in a self-driving sedan.
Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh began working on a self-driving ridesharing vehicle 18 months ago. It then equipped these Fusions with an array of laser scanners, cameras, and radar for creating intricate maps of the city. The system still requires occasional intervention from a human, like during bad weather.
The ridesharing company’s utopian goal is that its driverless vehicles could eventually be on the road 24 hours a day. Uber thinks that having such a convenient service could make it an alternative to traditional car ownership, which would ease traffic congestion. The firm still has a lot of development to do before achieving that lofty ambition, though.
While Uber’s first autonomous vehicle is a Ford, expect the next ones to be a little more luxurious. The business recently partnered with Volvo in a $300-million USD deal for self-driving models based on the XC90, S90, and V90. The Swedish automaker will sell them to customers without Uber’s proprietary tech, too.
Uber needs to work fast because it has well-funded competitors in the self-driving ridesharing market. For example, NuTonomy already has a service operating in Singapore with a fleet of Mitsubishi i-MiEV and Renault Zoe vehicles. Ford also recently pledged it would enter the market by 2021 with model without a steering wheel or pedals.