A few months after Uber declared its intention to develop self-driving cars and other advanced driving technology, the first fruits of its efforts have been spotted in the wild.
A 4-door sedan with a bunch of hardware mounted on the roof was seen cruising the streets of Pittsburgh (where Uber’s advanced car technology efforts are based) by the folks at the Pittsburgh Business Times.
The car, which appears to be a Ford Fusion, has the words Uber Advanced Technologies Center emblazoned in big letters on its side.
Check out a picture of the car here.
According to Uber, though, the vehicle is not technically a self-driving car.
“This is not a self-driving test car. This vehicle is part of our early research efforts regarding mapping, safety and autonomy systems.”
The hardware on the roof, such as what appears to be a spinning “lidar” laser sensor, looks similar to what’s used by both self-driving cars as well as cars rigged to create high-resolution digital maps. Lidars are used on Google’s self-driving cars and on the cars that map-maker Nokia Here uses.
Self-driving cars are still several years away from being available to the general public, with advances in technology and changes in regulations still required for the vehicles to become a reality.
Google has been leading the charge, with its podlike self-driving cars due to begin testing on California public roads this summer.
Traditional automakers such as General Motors, Nissan and Volvo are all also working to develop self-driving cars. Even Apple is reportedly exploring the potential of self-driving cars.
For Uber, the popular ride-hailing service that’s now valued at more than $US40 billion, self-driving cars offer the chance to eliminate a major cost: human drivers.
To create a viable self-driving car though will require huge investments in technology and in important features such as high-definition digital maps.