Uber Created a Fake City for Autonomous Vehicles

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【Summary】Uber may be testing its self-driving vehicles on Pittsburgh’s public roads, but the ride-sharing company went to great lengths to create a fake city to test their vehicles in.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Dec 02, 2017 8:15 AM PT
Uber Created a Fake City for Autonomous Vehicles

As numerous surveys and reports have indicated, American drivers just aren't ready for autonomous cars. At the moment, drivers in the United States are worried about how safe autonomous cars are and are concerned about the fact that they'll have to relinquish control to a machine. 

Understandably, companies looking into autonomous technology, like Uber, have been putting their self-driving machines to the test in the real world. Uber, for example, has taken to the streets of Pittsburgh and Arizona, but things haven't exactly gone smoothly for the automaker. One of its self-driving Volvo SUVs was involved in a multi-car accident last month, while another one of the company's machines was involved in an accident earlier in March too. 

How Uber's Vehicle Operators Are Trained

To ensure that its vehicles don't get into accidents – or at least try to minimize the amount of them – and interact with other drivers on the road in a meaningful manner, Uber has kept vehicle operators behind in the driver's seat of the machines throughout its testing. Recently, Uber's Advanced Technologies Group put out a video revealing how individuals can become a vehicle operator for Uber and provided some insight how it tests cars off of public roads. 

The program, as one would assume, is a rigorous one. According to Business Insider, the process takes three weeks to complete and requires interested individuals to pass written tests, as well as various road assessments. According to the outlet, the ride-sharing company employs "hundreds" of vehicle operator's a year, but Uber didn't provide a specific figure. 


Uber's Fake City Really Does Exist

While none of this is exactly exciting news, the interesting part of the video comes when Uber provides more details on the company's fake city. As Business Insider claims, Uber and its entire team of developers, testers, and engineers, ensure that the vehicle works properly around the Almono test track before unleashing the vehicles on public road. The company doesn't just use the test track to put new drivers to the test, but to test out any new changes that have been made to the vehicles' hardware or software. 

The city, as BGR reports, is a 42-acre fake city in Pennsylvania that looks, unsurprisingly, just like an actual city. Almono, as BGR claims, has everything a normal city has, including streets that are laid out in a grid, tricky intersections, numerous stoplights, and other cars. Oh, don't worry. The city even has pedestrians, even if they're fake, that behave erratically, reports BGR. The goal with the sporadic dummies is that they can help the company test the autonomous vehicles' reflexes, since they act in a similar fashion to an actual pedestrian. 

While this sounds like a unique, bespoke city that only Uber can afford, other companies have a similar situation. As Business Insider claims, Ford has its own fake city that it uses in Ann Arbor, Mich., which measures in at 32 acres. After watching Uber's machines go through the city without any incidents, we have to admit that we're a little more comfortable handing the steering wheel over to a robot. 

via: Uber Advanced Technologies Group, Business Insider, BGR

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