Self-driving Uber cars to debut in Pittsburgh

Associated Press

Self-driving Uber cars to carry passenger soon in Pittsburgh

Associated Press
FILE - In this undated file photo provided by Uber, a Ford Fusion hybrid outfitted with radars, laser scanners and high-resolution cameras drives along the streets of Pittsburgh. Uber said Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016, that passengers in Pittsburgh will be able to summon rides in self-driving cars with the touch of a smartphone button in the next several weeks. The high-tech ride-hailing company said that an unspecified number of autonomous Ford Fusions with human backup drivers will pick up passengers just like normal Uber vehicles. Riders will be able to opt in if they want a self-driving car, and rides will be free to those willing to do it, spokesman Matt Kallman said. (Uber via AP, File)

A handful of self-driving Uber cars will ferry passengers around Pittsburgh starting this month. 

The semi-autonomous cars will pick up customers and -- since the technology is still in testing -- those who try it will get the ride for free. 

The fleet consists of a modified version of a Volvo XC90. A driver will be in the front seat with their hands on the wheel so they can take over if anything goes wrong, and an engineer will be in the passenger seat to take notes on the drive. 

Testing the technology with real customers is a big step toward Uber's aim of a completely driverless service. 

CEO Travis Kalanick said cutting the driver out of the equation could potentially make the service much cheaper for riders -- possibly even cheaper than a private car. 

Right now, however, self-driving cars are still under intense scrutiny. As of yet, there aren't any fully autonomous vehicles on the road. 

Tesla has started to roll out limited autopilot features, but a deadly crash involving its autopilot mode has regulators investigating its safety

Google's autonomous car has also had a few accidents, but none of them were serious -- likely because the car is capped at 25 miles per hour. 

Uber and Volvo just announced a partnership to develop a completely autonomous car by 2021, but it's not clear when they plan to roll out a driverless ride-hailing service.

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