Uber Is Testing A Self-Driving Car In Pittsburgh: Could This Vehicle Change Transportation Forever — Again?

Popular ride-sharing service Uber announced that it is testing a new self-driving car in Pittsburgh.

Scary? Uber doesn’t think so.

The popular ride-share company noted in a recent blog post that the development of a self-navigating automobile has the potential to make the roads much safer for commuters.

In a statement, Uber stated its belief that “self driving cars have the potential to save millions of lives and improve quality of life for people around the world.” In defense of this statement, Uber noted the following.

“1.3 million people die every year in car accidents — 94% of those accidents involve human error. In the future we believe this technology will mean less congestion, more affordable and accessible transportation, and far fewer lives lost in car accidents.”

Of course, the self-driving car has to be tested in the real world before it can ever make it onto the roads on its own.

Google Self Driving Car
Other companies, such as Google, have been testing a self driving car technology. Uber's version, however, is leaving many in Pittsburgh to wonder if a self driving vehicle for consumers might not be that far off. [Image by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]

The self-driving car — which is in this case a hybrid Ford Fusion — is currently touring “The Steel City,” and is specifically being used to collect mapping data for Uber. During this process, various aspects of its self-driving capability are being tested, albeit with a trained driver inside to oversee its operations.

The self driving Uber vehicle — which was created at the company’s Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh — includes a series of sensors, radars, laser scanners, and high-resolution cameras in order to monitor the details of its surrounding environment.

Its technology is also being hailed as the next step in the innovation and development of the car industry, as well as the western Pennsylvania city.

“From the first steel mills to the laboratories at Pitt and Carnegie Mellon, Pittsburgh has a long history of innovation,” the city’s mayor, William Peduto, said for Uber’s press release, “We’re taking another step forward, this time [at] Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center, where some of the world’s leading innovators are helping to shape the future of transportation.”

Of course, a self-driving vehicle does present some logical concerns as well.

Uber noted that it is still in the “early days of our self driving efforts,” but that “every day of testing leads to improvements.” The ride-share company said that it is now focused on making sure that a self-driving vehicle will be safe, above all else.

Of course, the San Francisco based company has not been without its detractors in other areas as well. As has been seen in dozens of cases in the U.S. and Canada — including one instance in Toronto this week as documented by the Inquisitor — Uber has been criticized for the impact that it has on the local economy for taxi drivers and other public transportation officials.

In addition, the self-driving car presents, according to Ars Technica’s Jonathan Gitlin, quite a head scratcher for Uber’s business model.

“It’s… a somewhat confusing move… There’s a big difference between having a platform for people to use their own cars versus owning a vast fleet of vehicles itself. Right now, the company doesn’t have to worry about—or pay for—maintenance, depreciation, insurance, or fuel; that’s all outsourced to its drivers.”

Uber car app
Uber has, no doubt, changed the future of transportation with its popular car share service. Could its new self driving vehicle create yet another massive shift? [Image by Oli Scarff/Getty Images]

Regardless of its ultimate long-term business plan for a self-driving car, Uber did note that the city of Pittsburgh is on board. The company revealed that it has informed local officials and law enforcement about the self-driving cars, and that it has received tremendous support from the city of Pittsburgh, as a whole.

“Our work,” Uber said in its blog, “would not be possible without the support we’ve received from the region’s leaders.”

“We’re excited that Uber has chosen the Steel City as they explore new [self driving] technologies that can improve people’s lives,” added Mayor Peduto, “through increased road safety, less congestion, and more efficient and smarter cities.”

Uber, which is currently believed to be valued at $62.5 billion, first opened up its Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh in early 2015, in conjunction with researchers at Carnegie Mellon.

[Image by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]