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Uber debuts self-driving taxis in Pittsburgh

Two people will sit in the front to take over should the need arise. Photograph: (AFP)

Pittsburgh, PA, United States Sep 14, 2016, 01.26 PM (IST)
Uber is all set to launch its self-driving cabs in the US city of Pittsburgh.

Self-driving taxis will be available to the US public for the first time following Uber's secretive work in autonomous vehicles.

The San Francisco-based startup has a valuation of USD 68 billion and plans to replace many of its 1.5 million drivers with autonomous vehicles.

Initially, four such self-driving cabs will be available with two people sitting in the front to take over when the car cannot steer itself.

The car stops at red lights, accelerates at green, slows down on a busy street among other things, reporters at Reuters experienced.

However, the Uber driver and the engineer in the front seat did intervene a number of times.

Uber had hired some 40 faculty and researchers from Carnegie Mellon University recently and even partnered with automakers including Volvo.

Other companies like Alphabet Inc and Baidu Inc, Tesla Motors Inc and General Motors Co, have been working in the field of autonomous vehicles aiming at a long-term makeover of personal transportation.

“If Uber scores a home run with this it's going to be wonderful for the planet," Andrew Moore, dean of the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon, told Reuters. "The reason is we will see a much safer world and much more efficient world where we have to use less energy to move people around."

He, however, added, that at least another decade of research and development would be needed before we have a significant number of truly autonomous cars on the road.

A DOUBLE BLACK DIAMOND

Uber's Pittsburgh fleet consists of Ford Fusion cars outfitted with 3D cameras, global positioning systems (GPS) and a technology to assess the shape and distance of objects, mounted on the vehicle's roof. The company is also outfitting Volvo SUVs that will be added to the fleet.

Residents gave a mixed response to the new development. While some were in awe of the self-driving cabs, others seemed pessimistic about the idea.

(WION with inputs from Reuters)
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