Uber's self-driving cars in Pittsburgh: What it's like to ride in one and where they're coming next

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Move over Silicon Valley, Pittsburgh is the new hub of tech innovation.

At least, it might seem that way, with Uber rolling out its pilot self-driving car program there this week. The ride-hailing service is making its driverless cars available to a select few at first as they test out the program. So what are the details of the program, and where might it land next?

In IT Blogwatch, we go for a spin.

What is the deal with self-driving Ubers? Dake Kang has the details:

Uber on Wednesday became the first company to make self-driving cars available to the general public...through a test program in Pittsburgh. 
The Uber vehicles are equipped with...seven traffic-light detecting cameras...a radar system that detects different weather conditions... [and] 20 spinning lasers that generate a continuous, 360-degree 3-D map of the surrounding environment. During the test program, two engineers are...in front -- a backup driver and another monitoring the car's 3D map.

Who can hail one of these self-driving Ubers? Tim-o-tato makes it clear it's not entirely clear:

A self-driving Uber...is...providing the same experience as an UberX...these vehicles will...be usable by Uber’s most loyal riders, and I have no idea what that...means...I don’t think Uber knows if you have ever used a Lyft before...My guess is, if you find yourself taking Uber...frequently, and you’re in the vicinity of one, you may see it pop up inside of your Uber app.

And where might self-driving Ubers be next coming after Pittsburgh? Lucas Mearian has the lowdown:

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced he...wants...self-driving cars in Beantown...Over the course of the next year...Boston...will work with the World Economic Forum, The Boston Consulting Group, international cities and mobility industry leaders on developing policy goals and autonomous vehicle testing scenarios for Boston.

But what is it like to actually ride in an Uber self-driving car? Kim Lyons tried it out:

Remember when you first learned to drive, and...you stomped on the brake instead of easing down on the pedal...put your turn signal on...earlier than you needed to...and you took right turns really, really slowly and cautiously?...That’s what it’s like being in one of Uber's driverless cars.
It’s almost like the...cars are a little too cautious. For instance...we came to a four-way stop sign, with a car coming from the opposite direction. As my car began a right turn, and the approaching car continued straight, my car braked...even though there was no danger of a collision.

Too cautious is not a bad thing, though, right? But how will this affect Uber's Pittsburgh based drivers? Brian Fung breaks it down for us:

For Uber drivers, however, it is no surprise that employment is the bigger concern...Uber's chief executive...said...he does not expect the number of human drivers to decline anytime soon and that self-driving technology will create jobs, such as for fleet maintenance.
That is not enough to alleviate...Uber drivers' worries.

But there is still one big looming question about all this. Kerry Picket finally asks it:

So how does Uber plan to keep their driverless car from becoming filthy?

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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