After more than a year-and-a-half of secretive work, Uber has at long last released an official photo of its prototype self-driving car alongside a blog post detailing some of its work on autonomous vehicles.
Using a Ford Fusion hybrid as a base, the company’s self-driving car prototype features a series of “radars, laser scanners, and high resolution cameras to map details of the environment.” For the time being, the car still requires there to be a trained driver behind its wheel, but the company says it’s seeing promising progress. “While Uber is still in the early days of our self-driving efforts, every day of testing leads to improvements.”
On Wednesday, Aaron Aupperlee, a reporter from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, went on a ride in the car. It was the first time Uber has given a journalist such an opportunity. He says the vehicle was capable of performing simple functions like steering, braking and accelerating on its own. However, the prototype will hand control over to the driver if it detects a swerving vehicle or something it doesn’t know how to handle.
Uber established its Advance Technology Center (ATC) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania some 15 months ago. Like Toronto, road conditions in Pittsburgh make it a challenging city to navigate by car, meaning the city is the perfect place to test an autonomous vehicle. In an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, John Bares, head of the ATC, said, “the city’s narrow and hilly streets, haphazard parking, rainy and snowy weather and aging infrastructure have made [Pittsburgh] a challenging place to test self-driving technology.”
It’s not clear when Uber’s self-driving cars will make their way to Canada, but what is certain is that the company will likely need to negotiate with regulators before its cars are allowed on roads. Not that it doesn’t have its hand already full dealing with legal challenges in cities and provinces across the country.
Related reading: What happens after self-driving cars come to Canada?