On Wednesday, Sept. 14, Uber has officially launched its driverless car. The company began deploying in Pittsburgh a small test fleet of self-driving cars.
Uber's Driverless Cars
This test marks the first deployment of self-driving cars in a ride-hailing capacity. Uber's self-driving cars are equipped with light-mapping systems, radars and sensors, according to the website pbs.org. The company uses in its test fleet of self-driving cars a Ford Fusion model upgraded with spinning light scanners, cameras, radars and sensors on the roof.
Uber customers in the city of Pittsburgh will have now the option to choose a driverless car pickup. As a measure of safety precaution, the self-driving cars will have drivers ready to take control in case of necessity. Actually, as part of this test, two Uber employees will accompany every trip in a self-driving car in order to monitor its self-driving capabilities. One Uber employee will be in the passenger seat with a laptop displaying the images and data coming from the car's sensors and one will be behind the wheel.
Uber's Overall Goal
The ultimate goal of the company is to enable customers to summon one of their cars on demand in any part of the city, with nobody in it. However, as part of this first test, the Uber autonomous cars will operate within a small select area of 12 square miles in downtown Pittsburgh.
Uber has limited the test of its fleet of the self-driving cars only to that space because it will only send its autonomous driving vehicle out to areas in the city already mapped in extreme detail. The cars will know exactly the streets, where they are allowed to make a U-turn, where pedestrians are likely to cross, what the speed limit is everywhere, which lanes are right-turn-only lanes, traffic signs locations and where every traffic light is.
According to The Verge, for Uber this is a significant moment in the history of the company, as well as for the future of transportation. Silicon Valley types, futurists and auto market analysts predict that driverless cars will fundamentally change the way we get around.