Uber wants people to get used to the idea of riding in a self-driving car.
That’s why the ride-hailing service is letting a select few customers hail a Ford Fusion retrofitted with Uber’s driverless tech in Pittsburgh as of Wednesday morning.
We got behind the wheel of Uber’s self-driving cars earlier this week. Here’s a look inside:
Uber is using a Ford Fusion decked out with autonomous tech. There's a giant spinning lidar on top and 20 different cameras. The car also uses GPS and radar to locate itself and avoid obstacles.
Once you slide into the backseat, you'll see a giant display greeting you that asks you to confirm that only two passengers are in the car. That's because there's a safety driver and an engineer sitting up front to monitor the car and make sure everything goes according to plan.
The display also reminds you not to change your route since the cars can only operate in select locations. Currently, these locations include downtown Pittsburgh and the Shadyside neighbourhood.
Once you confirm you're abiding by the driverless car rules, the display will show information like trip details, the route, and planned turns for the purpose of making 'riders feel comfortable and safe,' said Emily Bartel, product manager at Uber ATC.
Bartel added that the Pittsburgh pilot is meant to help Uber suss out exactly how much information to share so riders feel comfortable. That's why those consenting to participate are agreeing to be videotaped during the ride.
But to be completely honest, my favourite part of the display is that you can take a selfie. I'm not exactly a huge 'selfie person,' but it's really cool that Uber superimposes the photo over the car's lidar map. It allowed me to more fully appreciate being in a robot car.
Uber gave us a chance to hop behind the driver's seat, and aside from a few additions it looks relatively normal. One thing that stands out is a toolbar behind the wheel of the car that indicates whether the car is in autonomous mode or not. If you see a green checkmark, the car is in control. But a blue dash indicates it's in manual mode and you should be making the decisions.
The center console is perhaps the most important part of Uber's self-driving cars. That's where you'll find the button that kicks the car into autonomous mode. There's also a very dramatic red 'kill switch' that will kick the car back into manual mode.
Unfortunately, if you want to take a look for yourself, you'll need a special invite from Pittsburgh. So don't road trip there for the sake of testing one out.
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