Just days after Google-owned Waze announced its entry into ride-hailing, Uber has released a photo of one of the self-driving cars it’s testing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
“If you’re driving around Pittsburgh in the coming weeks you might see a strange sight: a car that looks like it should be driven by a superhero,” Uber writes on its blog. “But this is no movie prop—it’s a test car from Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center (ATC) in Pittsburgh.”
(Superhero side note: the Batmobile did in fact traverse the streets of Pittsburgh a few years back when filmmakers were there to shoot “The Dark Knight Rises.”)
The pictured self-driving car is a hybrid Ford Fusion that has been equipped with radars, laser scanners, and high-res cameras, among other sensors. The company says it’s collecting mapping data as well as testing driverless capabilities, always with “a trained driver” monitoring things from the driver’s seat.
Last year, Uber lured away around 40 employees from Carnegie Mellon University’s famed robotics lab to set up its own research facility on autonomous cars, the Advanced Technologies Center. At the time, the broad-based talent raid stunned the university; in September, Uber donated $5.5 million to support a new robotics faculty chair, as well as three graduate fellowships.
Ride-hailing companies and automakers alike believe that self-driving cars are the future, and the race to develop them is intensifying. Volvo has designated 100 such cars for testing in China. Ford is putting them through trials in the snow. Driverless taxis from General Motors and Lyft will reportedly begin servicing passengers within a year. (Like Uber’s cars, those vehicles will initially be dispatched with drivers in the cockpit.) In Washington, meanwhile, many of these companies have teamed up on the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets, a lobbying group that will pressure US federal policymakers as they grapple with the regulatory questions posed by autonomous vehicles.
Uber didn’t offer a timeline for when self-driving cars will make their way to its platform, and the company declined to comment beyond its blog post. Regardless, it gets the message across: Uber would like you to remember that its driverless cars are coming, too.