Ride-hailing service Uber has become the first company to make self-driving cars available to the public in the US through a test in Pittsburgh.
The company offered a selection of customers free trips in autonomous Ford Fusion vehicles to help them get to their destination. Human drivers sat in the front of the car as a back up to the technology.
Taylor Pollier, 27, was given a ride to his bartending job and said it “felt sharp” and “like taking an Uber any other day”.
The Uber cars use seven traffic-light detecting cameras, a radar system for detecting different weather conditions and 20 spinning lasers which generate a continuous, 360-degree 3-D map of the surrounding environment.
The tests required two engineers to sit in the vehicle, one as a back-up driver and the other taking notes on the vehicle’s software.
Raffi Krikorian, director of the Uber Advanced Technologies Centre, said of the Pittsburgh test: “That pilot really pushes the ball forward for us.
We think it can help with congestion and can make transportation cheaper and more accessible for the vast majority of people.”
If the cars prove they can handle all the terrain and weather Pittsburgh offers, which are notoriously tricky with snowstorms and rolling hills, it would be a huge step step forward for the technology.
“We actually think of Pittsburgh as the double black diamond of driving. If we can really tackle Pittsburgh, then we have a better chance of tackling most other cities around the world.”
Since the Pittsburgh service launched the company has said none of the six self-driving vehicles have had an accident.
The first public test globally of self-driving vehicles was in Singapore only three weeks ago when NuTonomy allowed members of the public to use self-driving taxis.