Uber just quietly bought 600 acres of land to build a new test track for self-driving cars in Pittsburgh

An Uber self-driving car. PHILIP PACHECO/AFP/Getty Images

An Uber affiliate has purchased nearly 600 acres of land near Pittsburgh to test self-driving-car technology.

The purchase marks the company’s latest expansion of its autonomous-driving efforts, which it resumed testing on public roads in Pittsburgh in December last year after suspending the program for nine months following a fatal accident in Arizona.

“I can confirm that we’ve closed on the purchase of this land for the purpose of building a test track,” the Uber spokesperson Sarah Abboud told Business Insider in an email.

Imperial Land Corp. sold the 596-acre property to an Uber affiliate called 3 Rivers Holdings LLC for $US9.5 million.

“As for next steps and timing for when the track will be up and running we do not have details yet but will have more to share in the coming months,” Abboud told the Pittsburgh Business Times.

Pittsburgh has become the centre of the company’s self-driving-car ambitions ever since it launched its Advanced Technologies Centre in the city in 2015, a division it created in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University. Uber has also developed a fake city called Almono in Pittsburgh for testing self-driving vehicles.

The new nearly 600-acre track will employ roughly 200 people and include an observation deck, according to the report. Before purchasing the new land, Uber had considered setting up a 400-acre test site in South Fayette Township in Pittsburgh but ultimately rejected the plan, the Pittsburgh Business Times also reported. The newly purchased land, which is in Findlay Township, is near the 1 million-square-foot Amazon fulfillment centre that’s under construction.

The new site is yet another indication that Uber is expanding its research into self-driving cars as it competes with rivals like Alphabet’s Waymo, Tesla, Ford, and General Motors. In June, the ride-hailing giant unveiled a new self-driving-car model it developed with Volvo that includes computer-controlled steering and braking systems.