A test car from Uber's Advanced Technologies Center (ATC) will be hitting the streets of Pittsburgh over the coming weeks, in what is considered a progression of the ride-sharing service the company offers.
The car for testing Uber's self-driving technology is a hybrid Ford Fusion, and it will be collecting mapping data while it self-drives around the city through the use of sensors, including laser scanners, radars and high-resolution cameras.
Uber also noted that when the Uber ATC car goes into self-driving mode, there will be a trainer driver sitting in the driver's seat to keep track of the vehicle's operations and take back control if needed.
"Real-world testing is critical to our efforts to develop self-driving technology," Uber wrote in a press release, adding that driverless cars can possibly save millions of lives. Every year, 1.3 million die due to car accidents, with 94 percent of the accidents due to the fault of the driver. Self-driving cars will look to eliminate the chance of human error, while also decreasing congestion and improving the accessibility and affordability of transportation.
Uber said it is receiving support from the city's law enforcement authorities and local officials for the testing of the Uber ATC car, as Pittsburgh is said to be an ideal environment for the tests due to its different types of roads, patterns of traffic and weather conditions.
While Uber's foray into self-driving cars is not new, with news regarding the company's interest in the technology through its ATC dating back to last year, it remains a confusing business decision for the ride-sharing service.
Uber currently has the business model of providing a platform to drivers to use their own cars in offering transportation services to passengers. By having its drivers use their cars, Uber skips on the costs of owning the vehicles themselves. Moving towards using a fleet of self-driving cars, however, will remove Uber's shield from such costs, and will require immense capital, whereas it needed comparatively none for its current business model.
Experts believe getting driverless taxis on the road will not be happening soon as a realistic target would be more than a decade from now. A lot of things will happen between now and 2030, but it is always great to see technology being developed for the safety and convenience of people.