Google has a decent number of rivals in the self-driving car market. Only one of those rivals, however, is currently testing fully autonomous vehicles on actual city streets in the United States while they're in use. That rival is Uber, whose self-driving prototype, a modified Ford Fusion Hybrid, had been allegedly spotted by reporters last year, but never officially revealed. Today, Uber released a detailed official photo of one of their modified Ford Fusion Hybrid units, as well as a bit of information about the cars and Uber's self-driving efforts. The car pictured above can be seen stalking the streets of Pittsburgh, where Uber has set up its Advanced Technologies Center, in full autonomous mode, with a trained driver behind the wheel and sensors capturing mapping and traffic data.
The self-driving Ford Fusion Hybrid is decked out with a huge array of sensors, high-resolution cameras and radars, which all piece together a comprehensive picture of the world around the car. While Uber's self-driving rig may be quite advanced and allegedly have a year of real-world testing under its belt, Uber says they're still in the early stages of developing and "teaching" the car right now, with the current focus being on safety. Uber stated in their blog post along with the big reveal that they have already informed law enforcement and other local powers that be, and have received the proverbial green light for testing. Uber let a reporter in the car at one point, who said that the car was quite adept at most common tasks, but would give up control with a loud beep whenever it ran across something it didn't like.
Uber alleges that they chose Pittsburgh for the Advanced Technologies Center due to the wealth of available talent, which is evident by the amount of hiring they've done from Carnegie Mellon. It's only fitting really, since Carnegie Mellon was one of the first entities to test fully autonomous vehicles, even before Google did. Pittsburgh is also an ideal testing ground for a self driving car, according to Uber; a wide range of different types of terrain, traffic and weather are available to expose Uber's self-driving test rig to as many different situations as possible.With the cars made official, the gate is open for wider testing, should Uber choose to pursue it in the near future. For now, expect Uber's self-driving car to continue roaming Pittsburgh.