Self-driving technology road-tested in the US

US-based transportation network company Uber Technologies Inc. has launched a test car in Pittsburgh as part of its research into autonomous driving technologies.

The company stressed that the new vehicle is not self-driving. However, it is part of its research efforts regarding mapping, safety and autonomy systems, Uber spokeswoman Trina Smith told the Pittsburgh Business Times.

Uber announced in February that it would launch a research centre in Pittsburgh, focusing primarily on the areas of mapping, vehicle safety and driverless vehicle technology.

Pictures of the new test car, a modified Ford, reveal that it is equipped with cameras and sensors, suggesting that it may have the technology to map the streets and spot obstacles and curves in the road.

Meanwhile, Google is moving forward with its own self-driving vehicle programme and recently won approval to test its prototypes on public roads in California.

The hi-tech company announced earlier this month that safety drivers will test fully self-driving vehicle prototypes on the streets of Mountain View, where Google has its headquarters, this summer. These cars are guided by the same software as the company’s existing fleet of self-driving Lexus RX450h SUVs, which have logged nearly a million autonomous miles on the road since the start of the project six years ago.

Each prototype car will run at a maximum of 25mph and will have a steering wheel, accelerator pedal and brake pedal that can be used by test drivers to take over the driving if necessary. Google said that it was looking forward to learning how the community perceives and interacts with the vehicles, and to uncovering challenges that are unique to a fully self-driving vehicle – e.g., where it should stop if it can’t stop at its exact destination due to construction or congestion.

Statistics released this month by California’s Department of Motor Vehicles showed that four of the 48 self-driving cars on public roads in the state have been involved in accidents in the last eight months. But Google, which owns three of the four, said that its driverless cars had never been the cause of an accident.

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