Pittsburgh Uber passengers will be the first to summon self-driving cars from the ride-sharing service.
According to Bloomberg, Uber's fleet of modified Volvo XC90 SUVs will initially be supervised by humans in the driver's seat. A few of the 100 cars expected for delivery by the end of the year have already arrived in the Steel City.
During this rollout, Uber customers can request rides as usual, and will be paired at random with a driverless car; a tablet in the backseat informs riders of the situation, and explains what's happening. Trips, Bloomberg says, are free "for the time being."
A trained engineer will be seated behind the wheel with their fingertips poised to take control at any time, while a co-pilot takes notes on a laptop. Internal and external cameras, meanwhile, record every moment for post-trip review.
In early 2015, Uber teamed up with Carnegie Mellon University to create a center in Pittsburgh where it can research and develop autonomous technology. Three months after, an Uber-branded car with equipment attached to its room—was spotted on the road.
A year later, the ride-sharing service officially announced trials of a driverless automobile, suggesting that "real-world testing is critical to our efforts to develop self-driving technology." What looks like a cross between an undercover cop car and Google's Street View van is in fact a hybrid Ford Fusion—branded with Uber's Advanced Technologies Center (ATC) logo and outfitted with an array of sensors.
Uber did not immediately respond to PCMag's request for comment.