If you have walked or driven around downtown Pittsburgh in the past six months, you may have noticed a few cars on the road that look like they are straight out of a sci-fi movie. These Ford Fusions, equipped with large, spinning sensors on the tops of the vehicles, are autonomous driving vehicles being developed and tested by Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center in the Strip District.
These cars are the prototypes for the eventual (presumed) fully autonomous ride; however, there are currently drivers in the vehicles who can take over the driving responsibilities at any point. The cars are built with multiple sensors and lasers to build a constantly changing map of the surrounding environment and to keep a safe distance from other vehicles on the road.
Last week, it was announced that Ford Motor Company plans to invest $1 billion over the next five years in Argo AI, an artificial intelligence start-up headquartered in Pittsburgh that is focused on developing autonomous vehicle technology. Argo AI was founded by former leaders of the self-driving units of Uber and Google. The new venture will also have offices in Michigan and San Francisco.
Currently, there is congressional support to expedite development and bring these vehicles into our everyday lives. Those in favor cite the growing number of fatalities from motor vehicle accidents (mainly due to human error) as reason enough to accelerate the process.
While the Uber you may call in Pittsburgh this weekend to take you to your favorite watering hole may not be completely driverless, it sure seems like it may be that way in the near future.