After initiating tests of the car in May, Uber finally launched its self-driving car service in Pittsburgh on Wednesday.
“We think of Pittsburgh as the double black diamond of driving,” Raffi Krikorian, director of Uber Advanced Technologies Center, told reporters on Wednesday. “We think if we can really tackle Pittsburgh than we have a better chance of tackling those other cities around the world.”
Driverless cars will not be available to all of the city’s 145,000-plus users. Instead, Uber emailed several thousand of its “most loyal customers” this morning, giving them the option to opt-in to the service, reports The Incline. This means only Uber’s most frequent riders will be available for the service, which is free for now.
The cars are topped with cameras that allow the vehicle to scan its surroundings for other cars and stoplight colors:
As with Uber Pool, there will be a two-rider maximum, and the vehicle will require that users fasten their seatbelts before the rides begin. In order to meet Pennsylvania’s safety regulations, the ride isn’t fully “self-driving.” Each ride is equipped with a safety driver — who is recruited from Uber’s standard pool of drivers — to take over if needed and an engineer who will be monitoring data to report back to Uber.
The self-driving cars also have selfie capabilities thanks to tablets installed in the backseat that allow the rider to track their voyage in real time.
“The vehicles will be available from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m for riders and will only cover rides within city limits.”
The company based its Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh because of city’s “ideal environment to develop and test our technology across a wide variety of road types, traffic patterns, and weather conditions.” The company has a strategic partnership with Carnegie Mellon University.
Here’s a video released by Uber on how it expects the autonomous system to work:
There’s no telling when Uber will start this program in other cities, but given the company’s history of rapidly scaling a service as soon as it works, it won’t be long now.