Uber said on August 18 that it would deploy driverless cars for its ride-sharing services in Pittsburgh this month, pushing the envelope for the use of self-driving technology.
Uber unveiled its first self-driving car in May, beginning testing on the streets of Pittsburgh
Uber said the program would begin with the cars carrying company "co-pilots," engineers and safety personnel, after testing the cars in the western Pennsylvania city without passengers for months.
The company gave few details on the Pittsburgh project, which has been in the planning since last year. Nils Hagen-Frederiksen, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, which oversees Uber's operations in the state, said they were awaiting information from the company on its Pittsburgh plan. "We will be carefully reviewing that based on our commitment to safeguarding the travelling public," he said.
According to Uber, initially the driverless cars deployed in the city will be Ford Fusions and Volvo XC90 SUVs; the latter is the car the joint venture with Volvo is focused on.
Pittsburgh, the home of robotics research pioneer Carnegie Mellon University, has strongly backed the push to develop the autonomous cars despite ongoing worries over regulation and safety. "The city of Pittsburgh has been fully supportive of Uber's efforts to expand its program and advance innovation. Mayor (William) Peduto, a regular user of Uber, welcomes these advancements and looks forward to further collaboration with the company," said city spokesman Tim McNulty.
Uber also announced on August 18 that it is buying Otto, a San Francisco-based startup developing self-driving commercial trucks. In taking over the 90-person Otto, Uber said that Otto co-founder Anthony Levandowski will now lead Uber's efforts to develop self-driving technology for personal driving, delivery and trucking.
"Together, we now have one of the strongest autonomous engineering groups in the world; self-driving trucks and cars that are already on the road thanks to Otto and Uber's Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh," said Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2016