Uber puts self-driving car on road in Pittsburgh
Uber’s partially self-driving car will begin accepting passengers here Wednesday, a critical test for the ride-hailing service as it seeks to develop a fleet of autonomous vehicles that could someday ferry passengers around crowded cities.
The company on Tuesday gave journalists test drives in about two dozen Ford Fusion sedans retrofitted with light-mapping systems, radar, sensors and cameras. For now, an Uber employee stays behind the steering wheel to intercede if the selfdriving system makes a mistake.
Specially trained Uber employees will pick up passengers who agree to the possibility they could be randomly assigned a self-driving car when they request an UberX ride through the app. Rides will be free for now.
In a USA TODAY test drive, the Fusion smoothly navigated many of the bustling urban streets of Pittsburgh, breezing over the Three Sisters bridges above the Allegheny River and safely avoiding bicyclists and walkers on vibrant Penn Avenue. On several occasions, the car handed control back to the driver when a situation was too complex for the car’s algorithms, such as when a construction vehicle was parked backward in the right lane.
Pittsburgh is home to Uber’s new Advanced Technologies Center, but it’s also a good town to test self-driving cars, with its combination of bridges, pedestrians, bicyclists, urban driving, railroads and bad weather.
“If we really can master driving in Pittsburgh, then we feel strongly we have a good chance of mastering it in most other cities around the world,” said Raffi Krikorian, leader of the Center.
Uber’s next self-driving car: A Volvo XC90 in early 2017.