Uber will start testing self-driving vehicles for
ride-hailing customers in Pittsburgh within the next few weeks.
The test vehicles will have a safety driver in the driver’s
seat ready to take over the vehicle when necessary as well as an engineer in
the passenger’s seat. The vehicle types will be Volvo XC90 SUVs and Ford Focus cars.
Uber is starting the program after acquiring Otto, a
technology company that develops autonomous driving systems for long-haul
trucks. Otto co-founder Anthony Levandowski will head Uber’s self-driving
technology efforts. Uber also said it reached a partnership with Swedish
automaker Volvo involving the further development of self-driving vehicles.
“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,” Uber CEO Travis Kalanick wrote in a blog post. “By combining
Uber’s self-driving technology with Volvo’s state-of-the art vehicles and
safety technology, we’ll get to the future faster than going it alone.”
The Wall Street Journal reported that the Pittsburgh program
may involve as many as 100 vehicles.