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Car-hailing service Uber jumps on the driverless bandwagon

Would you call a driverless cab? (Photo: Uber)

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Uber has confirmed plans to test drive self-driving cars in Pittsburgh, ending weeks of speculation.

Could this spell the end of the cab driver? In a blog post published by car-hailing service Uber last week, the company made their first public statement admitting plans to test autonomous vehicles. One car in fact. On the streets of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

In the blog, the company informs local residents that they can expect to see a hybrid Ford Fusion making its way through the city collecting mapping data and testing its self-driving capabilities. A trained driver will be in the car monitoring operations at all times. TechCrunch says the car is kitted out with multiple cameras, lasers and sensors; and can see as far as 100 meters in any direction.

The car was produced at Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center (ATC), also in Pittsburgh. Uber says the city was chosen for the center due to “its world-class engineering talent and research facilities.” Adding that the city provides “an ideal environment to develop and test our technology across a wide variety of road types, traffic patterns and weather conditions.”

According to the blog, their interest in driverless technology lies in improving safety and increasing mobility: “In the future we believe this technology will mean less congestion, more affordable and accessible transportation, and far fewer lives lost in car accidents.” Elsewhere, a BBC report suggests that eliminating drivers could also be another way for the app-service to boost profits. 

This is not the first time that Uber has gained media attention regarding its interest in self-driving cars. Earlier this year, reports were circulating that the company was shopping around for autonomous cars to add to its fleet. Uber-rival Lyft has also launched a long-term business partnership with General Motors dedicated to self-driving cabs. As pointed out by TechCrunch, the technology being showed off by Uber is still at an early stage, meaning that for now cars ordered with the app will continue to be sent with a driver.

Read the blog from Uber here and the articles from TechCrunch here and the BBC here.

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