The day has arrived. Today, Uber let loose its fleet of autonomous vehicles in Pittsburgh. However, since it is a test, the cars will have a human driver that is capable of managing things if the vehicle cannot.

Ford, Google, Nissan, Mobileye NV, Delphi Automotive PLC ,  and until recently, Apple have spent billions of dollars trying to be the first business in the United States to bring their autonomous cars into the light. However, Uber’s long-awaited test program puts the company at the head of the latest technological race: the quest for the first self-driven car.

The company’s Advanced Technologies Center (ATC) is field-testing this tech on the streets of Pittsburgh. Image Credit:

Uber believes that without a driver, its services will be a lot cheaper and as such, more accessible for everyone. Nonetheless, the ice needs to be broken in regards to self-driving cars, since many feel uneasy at the prospect of trusting their well-being into a machine.

Different tastes, different opinions

Claudia Tyler, an executive, told the Washington Post that she feels “scared” of not having “a driver there.” In spite of the fear, the cars have behaved correctly so far, even crossing bridges with no problem, something that has brought trouble before (colocar link The only thing the vehicle has been incapable of performing is parking by itself.

Other companies like Ford and Google, however, prefer to release a completely autonomous vehicle before testing it with the public. Their design consists of a car without pedals, brakes, or steering wheel, a view more unsettling than the one Uber provides now.

Still, many believe that decades will have to pass before truly, one hundred percent self-driven cars are a regular recurrence. According to Raj Rajkumar, a  Carnegie Mellon engineering Professor, “because vehicles are driving at seventy miles per hour on the highway, if something goes wrong, things could go wrong very bad, very quickly. This technology needs to be ultra-reliable before we can take the human out of the driving equation.”

Uber is set to launch self-driving cars in Pittsburgh in the coming weeks. Image Credit: Learning English

The Uber self-driven vehicles

The Ford Fusions that are being tested are endowed with GPS, over twenty spinning lasers that generate a three-dimensional map of the objects around the car, cameras that detect the traffic lights and a radar system that is aware of both the weather and the conditions of the asphalt.

Pittsburgh was selected as the city for the test because it was “notoriously bad driving conditions” according to the Uber engineers. This includes lots of bridges, snowstorms, torrential rains and rolling hills. The workers believe that if the cars can travel successfully in this chaotic city, they are ready for the rest of the globe.

The engineers hope that the test will also serve to gauge the public’s reaction and will help them to eventually implement a tactic of easing the fears regarding autonomous vehicles.

Patrick Holland, a student, declared to the Washington Post that he would probably “give them a little bit and let them work their kinks out. But I think a product that’s well tested and it’s proven to work and safe — I think that’s where we’re heading, and I think I’ll eventually find myself in a driverless vehicle.”

Sources: Washington Post