Uber is bringing self-driving cars to the streets of Pittsburgh. The app driven taxi like service has had driverless vehicles in Pittsburgh for months on a trial run basis and is now making it official will be the first US city to experience a full fleet of them.
The autonomous Ford Focus vehicles are preparing to begin taking passengers in the coming weeks. These cars will have human backup drivers and will transport passengers just like normal Uber vehicles.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) August 18, 2016
Pittsburgh is home to an Uber self-driving research lab that has been working on autonomous technology. This lab was sparked by Uber co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick utilizing Carnegie Mellon University’s robotic department, the same department that aided in Google’s self-driving car project.
“Travis had an idea that he wanted to do self-driving,” says John Bares, who had run CMU’s National Robotics Engineering Center for 13 years before founding Carnegie Robotics, a Pittsburgh-based company that makes components for self-driving industrial robots used in mining, farming, and the military. “I turned him down three times. But the case was pretty compelling.” Bares joined Uber in January 2015 and by early 2016 had recruited hundreds of engineers, robotics experts, and even a few car mechanics to join the venture. The goal: to replace Uber’s more than 1 million human drivers with robot drivers—as quickly as possible, per Bloomberg.
In addition to the Ford Fusion branded autonomous vehicles, Volvo and Uber have partnered on a $300 million deal for Volvo to provide SUVs to Uber for autonomous vehicle research. Volvo hopes to add their sports utility vehicles as part of the self-driving options with Uber in the future.