We’re still in what can be classed as the very early days of actually finding a company that is capable of bringing a road worthy and ultimately safe self-driving car to public roads. Many well-known corporations are trying to be the first to achieve that milestone, as are a growing number of smaller but well-invested startups, but could it potentially be Uber that leads the way and makes this all-important breakthrough? The online transportation company has shown its hand by posting the first official photograph of the self-driving car that has been pounding the asphalt of Pittsburgh over the last twelve months.
Uber’s involvement in the self-driving car race hasn’t exactly been something that the company has tried to keep secret. An initial prototype of the vehicle was spotted in and around the Pittsburgh locality almost a year ago. Prior to that, the company actually waxed lyrical about its plans to create an autonomous vehicle, presumably to achieve the ultimate end-goal of taxiing customers around the city without the need for a driver to be on-board.
Many photographers and Pittsburgh residents have been able to spot the vehicle doing the rounds in the local area, but Uber has now posted an official photograph of the hybrid Ford Fusion.
In addition to actually testing out its self-driving capabilities, Uber is using the technology-laden Ford Fusion to collect mapping data of the local area through the use of on-board radars, laser scanners, and high resolution cameras that have all been integrated into the vehicle to capture and map intricate details of the environments and terrains that the vehicle encounters on its journeys. One of the interesting things to note is that when the car is actually out collecting that data, there is always a trained driver behind the wheel.
As you might expect, the ultimate end-goal is to be able to produce a fleet of self-driving vehicles that can be thrust into the general population without any fear of accidents or issues occurring. We’re a long way off achieving that goal, but Uber states that each day of testing brings them closer, and that “right now we’re focused on getting the technology right and ensuring it’s safe for everyone on the road – pedestrians, cyclists, and other drivers”.
No single company or collaboration has truly made that breakthrough yet when it comes to autonomous vehicles, but considering the stakes involved, Uber could be one to watch as a serious player.