Self-driv­ing Uber hit streets in US

The Myanmar Times - - The Pulse -

UBER launched a ground­break­ing driver­less car ser­vice yes­ter­day, jump­ing ahead of Detroit auto gi­ants and Sil­i­con Val­ley ri­vals with tech­nol­ogy that could rev­o­lu­tion­ize trans­porta­tion.

In an am­bi­tious ex­per­i­ment, a fleet of cars laden with lasers, cam­eras and other sen­sors – but with no one’s hands on the wheel – were to be de­ployed by the web-based ride ser­vice on the chal­leng­ing roads of Pitts­burgh, Penn­syl­va­nia, steer­ing them­selves to pick up reg­u­lar Uber pas­sen­gers who are used to be­ing fetched by cars driven by hu­mans.

Four of the Ford Fu­sion hy­brids with their un­gainly rooftop load of tech­nol­ogy were de­ployed to se­lect cus­tomers yes­ter­day, with the com­pany show­ing at least a dozen more ready to put on the streets.

And Uber is well-ad­vanced in de­vel­op­ing a self-drive car with Swe­den’s Volvo, ex­pected to be­come the main­stay of the pro­gram in the near fu­ture.

The cars and their back­ing tech­nol­ogy have been trained on the city’s com­pli­cated grid for less than two years, but demon­stra­tion rides ahead of the launch showed them very able to han­dle most sit­u­a­tions – as able as many driv­ers.

Still, just to be sure, the Pitts­burgh Uber reg­u­lars who sum­mon a driver­less car will also get two com­pany tech­ni­cians with them to make sure ev­ery­thing goes right.

One will sit be­hind the wheel, with hands at the ready to take over in sticky spots, while the other mon­i­tors the car’s be­hav­iour.

Uber will not give a time­line, but it aims to re­duce that to one tech­ni­cian, still be­hind the wheel, to in­ter­vene and to sat­isfy existing state poli­cies that re­quire a driver in a car.

The goal, Uber of­fi­cials say, is to get to zero in­ter­ven­tions, and no tech­ni­cian along for the ride.

The move has put Uber ahead of the rest of the auto in­dus­try in get­ting such cars out for the gen­eral pub­lic. The ma­jor au­tomak­ers all have driver­less car de­vel­op­ment pro­grams, as do tech gi­ants Google and Ap­ple. And many au­tomak­ers al­ready have cars on the road with ad­vanced driver as­sist tech­nol­ogy, most no­tably Tesla.

In­deed, Uber it­self was beaten to the punch at launch­ing the first driver­less call ser­vice by the Sin­ga­pore startup nuTon­omy, which put six cars on the road at the end of Au­gust.

But the Sin­ga­pore ex­per­i­ment is so far lim­ited to a small­ish area on the very flat, well-planned Southeast Asia is­land. Uber’s land­scape is the whole of Pitts­burgh, a ma­jor US city with very steep hills, old nar­row streets and mul­ti­ple bridges and high­ways built through the mid­dle.

What al­lowed Uber to get to the front of the pack was not auto en­gi­neer­ing but rather its abil­ity to ac­cu­mu­late and crunch mas­sive amounts of data on road and driv­ing con­di­tions col­lected from the bil­lions of miles driven by Uber driv­ers.

“We have one of the strong­est self-driv­ing en­gi­neer­ing groups in the world, as well as the ex­pe­ri­ence that comes from run­ning a rideshar­ing and de­liv­ery net­work in hun­dreds of cities,” said Uber founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive Travis Kalan­ick in a blog post yes­ter­day.

Photo: AFP

A pas­sen­ger looks on as he rides in a pi­lot model of an Uber self-driv­ing car yes­ter­day in Pitts­burgh.

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