Uber self-driving cars spotted on San Francisco's hilly roads

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【Summary】Uber self-driving cars spotted on San Francisco’s hilly roads

Original Claire    Oct 05, 2016 10:25 PM PT
Uber self-driving cars spotted on San Francisco's hilly roads
Claire Pu

By Claire Pu

The dark grey vehicles with Uber's name on them are moving along San Francisco's busy streets with camera apparatus' on their roofs, indicating they are self-driving vehicles.

However Uber later confirmed that the vehicles are collecting "mapping data" through multicameras to make sure its trip data is as accurate as possible, and emphasized that there is a driver sitting in the front.

The mapping cars have been in San Francisco since this past August, and in appearance they look similar to the self-driving cars due to the aforementioned cameras on top. Uber has a Blog devoted to its mapping cars, which confirmed the mapping vehicles will continue to travel in San Francisco at least through this month. "The street imagery captured by our mapping cars will help us improve core elements of the Uber experience, like ideal pick-up and drop-off points and the best routes for riders and drivers," wrote Uber on its Blog.

The Uber vehicles are equipped with everything from seven traffic-light detecting cameras to a radar system that detects different weather conditions to 20 spinning lasers that generates a continuous 360 degree 3-D map of the surrounding environment.

On the other hand, Uber has already started testing self-driving capabilities in Pittsburgh. Earlier this month, a fleet of self-driving Ford Fusions picked up Uber riders who opted to participate in the test program. While the vehicles were loaded with features that allow them to navigate on their own, an Uber engineer still sat in the driver's seat and seized control if things went awry.

More cautious than that, Uber passengers had to sign a liability form in case they were injured or killed in an ac-cident while riding in these self-driving cars, according to documents obtained by The Guardian.

Uber's test program is the latest move in an increasingly heated competition between tech companies in Silicon Valley and traditional automakers to improve on fully driverless cars for regular people. Competitors such as Volvo and Google have invested hundreds of millions of dollars and logged millions of miles test driving auton-omous vehicles, but Uber is the first company in the U.S. to make self-driving cars available to the general pub-lic.

Pittsburgh is especially an ideal place to carry out the experiment, according to what Uber executives said, be-cause the city is a research hub of self-driving cars and has notoriously bad driving conditions, including snow-storms, rolling hills and a tangled network of aging roads and bridges. Uber executives are watching to see how the cars handle these challenges before saying when fully driverless vehicles will be ready to hit the roads.

"We actually think of Pittsburgh as the double black diamond of driving," Raffi Krikorian, the Director of Uber Advanced Technology Centre in Pittsburgh said. "If we can really tackle Pittsburgh, that we have a better chance of tackling most other cities around the world."

Pennsylvania is also relatively loose in self-driving testing regulations at the moment, unlike other driverless car-testing venues such as California. The Uber trial is perfectly legal under current state law, Pennsylvania officials said.

Sources from: USAToday, cnet, CBS

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