In a blog post yesterday, Uber officially showed off the self-driving car that's been stealthily cruising around Pittsburgh city streets. The car is a hybrid Ford Fusion, one of the more impressive autonomous research vehicles out there, and is currently in the early stages of safety testing. This particular Uber test vehicle was first spotted almost a year ago by local Pittsburgh media, but this is Uber's first acknowledgement of such tests.
Uber and Google (among others) have been racing to be the first to develop self-driving taxis for over a year now. Uber "cleaned out" Carnegie Mellon and the National Robotics Engineering Center to be part of its Advanced Technology Center in Pittsburgh, which is Uber's research arm responsible for developing this "look ma, no hands" technology. This heavy hiring out of Carnegie Mellon could give Uber a boost seeing as though the Pittsburgh-based university considers itself the birthplace of self-driving cars — it makes sense since CMU researchers were driving autonomous vehicles across the country before Google even existed.
Rumours also say that Uber has shown massive monetary commitment to self-driving cars by allegedly ordering 100,000 Mercedes as well. Uber recently joined a coalition, along with Google and Ford, to advocate for self-driving adoption.
For now, Uber's ambitious autonomous efforts remain contained on Pittsburgh city streets with a flesh-and-blood human behind the wheel. But with Google expanding its own efforts to Arizona for temperature testing, it looks like the race toward hands-free transportation is well underway.