Last year, Uber set up its Advanced Technologies Center in the US city of Pittsburgh, with a view to rolling out a fleet of autonomous ride-sharing vehicles. It may have been beaten to the punch by NuTonomy, but today Pittsburgh residents will be the first to experience Self-Driving Ubers, as real-world testing commences.
Uber sees this public testing as critical to the success of autonomous driving technology, which it suggests may ultimately help to offer an alternative to individual car ownership in cities. Among the benefits it envisions are a reduction in the number of traffic accidents, greater availability of parking spaces and less congestion.
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These benefits have been echoed this week by Volvo, as it completed the construction of the first fully autonomous XC90 SUV set to take part in its Drive Me autonomous driving trial in Sweden. Indeed, Uber is partnered with Volvo for the Pittsburgh trial too, with autonomous XC90s to be added after the initial roll-out of a "handful of Ford Fusions."
Since the autonomous driving technology is still being developed, the Uber fleet will, of course, have a human driver in the front seat to take control if necessary. Even when the technology has been proven, Uber says it believes ride-sharing will be a mix between human- and self-driven vehicles, with a human element able to add to the service in ways that a computer cannot.
The video below shows a Self-Driving Uber take to the streets.