Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Reporters get a look at Uber's self-drive cars in Pittsburgh

Over at the NYT, we read about reporters getting a look at Uber's autonomous vehicles on public roads, in the Pennsylvania city of Pittsburg.

Uber said autonomous cars can reduce vehicle-related deaths, including the nearly 40,000 that occurred in the United States last year, which was the deadliest for automotive-related deaths since 2008 and had the largest year-over-year percentage increase in 50 years, according to the National Safety Council.

Over at Engadget, their reporter tells us:

Uber's cars will likely learn [the customs of local driving] sooner than later, and I got to see examples of that learning on display in my drive. Apparently, when you're stopped at a red light in Pittsburgh, it's customary to let the first car across from you take a left turn if they need to before continuing straight through the intersection (it's called the "Pittsburgh left," appropriately). The autonomous cars thus are programmed to take a little pause before continuing through an intersection when a car across from it has its left blinker on. That's not about driving "right" or "wrong" -- it's about knowing local rules of the road and respecting them. Every area these cars go into will have their own quirky rules like this they'll need to learn.


While sitting in the back of the Uber, I could look at an iPad mounted to show the riders some details on the car. You can see how far you've driven autonomously, the current speed and a graphic showing the movements of the steering wheel and when the brakes are applied. But most interesting was a view of what the car's radar system is seeing at any given moment. You can see cars, buildings, pedestrians and anything else in range of the car. It'll satisfy the curiosity of people interested in how the car works as well as provide some transparency and possible security to people skeptical about the system.

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