Uber’s Self-Driving Cars Hit the Street in Pittsburgh
If you’re in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania you may be surprised when your Uber arrives without something important, a driver. The cars, from Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center (ATC) in Pittsburgh, look a little bit like something from a sci-fi movie with sensors, cameras, radar scanners, and lasers, but they are in fact real functioning driverless cars.
The specially equipped Ford Fusion hybrid will be gathering mapping data as well as being put through its self-driving paces. Don’t panic, the cars aren’t completely on their own, each car will have a trained technician behind the wheel making sure things run smoothly.
This initial testing phase is very important. Of course it will find issues with software and hardware, and shake the bugs loose, but it will also show humans what the future looks like. Beyond the physical functioning of self-driving cars, we’ll learn how people accept them and what’s missing from their programming that will make them react more like a human being. We’ve all had to make judgement when small (or large) woodland creatures make their way onto the road forcing us to decide if it’s better swerve, stop, or on rare occasion, neither. It’s these kind of decisions, and human errors, that cause the majority of the car accidents that claim 1.3 million lives each year. These tests in Pittsburgh will lead to further development of something that will impact all of our lives.
At this point most people are saying, “This is great! The future is now!” But, a number people have one burning question, why Pittsburgh? Why was Pittsburgh, of all places, chosen to be the testing grounds for self-driving cars. Glad you asked.
In a joint press release with Uber William Peduto, Mayor of Pittsburgh said, “From the first steel mills to the laboratories at Pitt and Carnegie Mellon, Pittsburgh has a long history of innovation. Now we’re taking another step forward, this time as home to Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center, where some of the world’s leading innovators are helping to shape the future of transportation. We’re excited that Uber has chosen the Steel City as they explore new technologies that can improve people’s lives — through increased road safety, less congestion, and more efficient and smarter cities.”
In the same press release Uber added, “Uber chose the Steel City as the home of our Advanced Technologies Center because of its world-class engineering talent and research facilities. Pittsburgh is an ideal environment to develop and test our technology across a wide variety of road types, traffic patterns and weather conditions. The city’s long history of innovation continues today as it helps us shape the future of transportation.”
The future of transportation, and in many ways society, is hitting the roads of the Steel City in a demonstration of the past shaping the future of innovation. In addition to being on the cutting edge of technology, the Uber users in Pittsburgh get to be on the ground floor of another decision that will shape opinion for years to come, what exactly do you tip a self-driving car.