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May 20, 2016

Uber kick starts own driverless car trials

News: Ford Fusion equipped with dozens of sensors will be driving itself in a ‘real-world’ city test environment.

By Joao Lima

Taxi app company Uber has made its biggest move towards driverless cars to date with initial trials of the technology in Pennsylvania, US.

The test is being conducted by Uber’s Advanced Technologies Centre (ATC) in the streets of Pittsburgh, and is being carried out in partnership with local Carnegie Mellon University.

The company has equipped a hybrid Ford Fusion with several sensors, including radars, laser scanners, and high resolution cameras.

Uber said that a trained driver will always be in the driver’s seat to monitor operations, including when the vehicle is in self-driving mode.

In a statement, the company said that real-world testing is critical to its efforts to develop self-driving technology, showing Uber is deeply vested in making driverless cars part of its servies.

"[Helping reducing road accidents and deaths, congestion and transportation costs] are the goals at the heart of Uber’s mission to make transportation as reliable as running water — everywhere and for everyone," it reads.

The trials in Pittsburgh are at this stage looking into how to get driverless technology right and ensuring that pedestrians, cyclist and other drives are safe when around a fully automated vehicle.

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William Peduto, Mayor of Pittsburgh, said: "We’re excited that Uber has chosen the Steel City as they explore new technologies that can improve people’s lives — through increased road safety, less congestion, and more efficient and smarter cities."

Uber’s desire to enter the driverless car race has never been a secret. In October last year, CEO Travis Kalanick, told the audience at WSJ’s WSJLive conference that "Uber, a five-year-old company has the potential to be disrupted if we do not do this right, is super fascinating".

He said: "Are we going to be part of the future? Or are we going to resist the future, like that taxi industry before us? For us, we are a tech company, so we have said, let us be part of that. It is a super exciting place to be."

In April this year, Uber entered Google’s Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets together with Ford, Volvo and Lyft.

The group plans to work with policymakers to identify the appropriate solutions that support the deployment of self-driving vehicles.

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