Ride-sharing service Uber has announced that it is to follow the lead of carmakers and begin testing its own autonomous vehicle. The hybrid Ford Fusion has been kitted out with self-driving tech by Uber's Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh and will be tested on the city's streets.
Uber isn't the only ride-sharing service with an eye on offering autonomously driven vehicles in the future. A large part of the General Motors and Lyft partnership announced earlier this year is focused on developing the technology.
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From a business perspective, Uber believes that self-driving vehicles will help to make its services more reliable. In a more general sense, though, it expects them to result in reduced congestion, more affordable and accessible transportation and fewer deaths on the roads.
Uber's Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh opened last year and is focused on the development of long-term technologies. The firm says the city has a wide variety of road types, traffic patterns and weather conditions, making it well placed for testing autonomous driving technologies.
As with other autonomous vehicles, the Ford Fusion to be used for the testing is fitted with a number of different sensor-types, including radars, laser scanners and high-resolution cameras. The sensors will be used to map the environment around the car, with the data collected by each of them then combined together in a process known as "sensor fusion."
Collecting the mapping data produced is one of the goals of the testing, as is developing an understanding of the capabilities of Uber's self-driving technology. In particular, Uber says the testing will focus on ensuring that the technology is safe for all road users.
When the car is in self-driving mode, there will be a trained driver in the driver's seat monitoring performance and ready to take control of the vehicle if necessary.
The testing is due to commence "in the coming weeks."