Head’s Up, Pittsburgh, Uber Is Testing a Self-Driving Car

We’ve been talking recently about the desire by the two largest ride-sharing car companies in the United States (Uber and Lyft) to augment their human fleets of automobiles with self-driving cars. Well, folks, the future has arrived.

Uber currently is testing its first self-driven car in Pittsburgh that will whisk you across town with absolutely no one behind the wheel. The car — a Ford Fusion hybrid – is traveling the streets of Pittsburgh right now but only in test mode.

It is outfitted with sensors, radars, laser scanners and high-resolution cameras, and is designed to gather mapping data as well as test its self-driving capabilities, Uber says. Not surprisingly, this test does not involve any real passengers, indeed, even company representatives have not – yet – taken their car for a spin.

UBER'S Driverless Vehicle

Uber’s Pittsburgh Driverless Test Vehicle    Source: Uber

“When it’s in self-driving mode, a trained driver will be in the driver’s seat monitoring operations,” Uber said. “Real-world testing is critical to our efforts to develop self-driving technology. We believe this technology will mean less congestion, more affordable and accessible transportation, and far fewer lives lost in car accidents.”

The race does, indeed, appear to be on with automobile manufacturers from GM to Tesla Motors to Bentley all championing the day when technology – GPS, sensors, virtual reality and advanced radar capabilities – will become commonplace on city streets.

Still Uber says it’s still in the very early days of testing, so don’t expect a driverless car pulling up at your door anytime soon to take you to your friend Bob’s bachelor party. But the company did manage to get this prototype on the road in time to lay claim to being the first ride-sharing company to dabble in the nascent driverless car market. Within the next year, Uber’s chief U.S. rival Lyft plans to roll out autonomous electric Chevrolet Bolts, in an expansion of the partnership between the two companies.

And not to be outdone by the United States, China’s Uber-like service, Didi Chuxing, recently announced a $1 billion investment by Apple. It is believed that Apple is not interested in creating cars that compete with traditional automakers in China. No, its foray into the auto industry could come as a sort of ride-sharing or car-sharing service – first in China – that eventually could compete in the United States with Uber and Lyft.

As Bette Davis said in the 1950 motion picture classic “All About Eve,” “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.” Hopefully, Bette’s prediction will not come true.

Onward and Upward,

David Bross
for The Daily Reckoning

P.S. Our Technology Profits Confidential Editor Ray Blanco has studied how you can invest in VR technology. You can check out his research one of two ways — the awe-and-wonder version here and the NSFW (not safe for work) version here. Enjoy!

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