Uber debuts self-driving car for testing in Pittsburgh

Google's projects have been dominating headlines about self-driving car research for some time now, but it's Uber's turn to make an official announcement. After months of discussing plans on its own efforts to enter the autonomous vehicle game, the ride-sharing company has revealed the first official photo of its self-driving car. The car is a hybrid model Ford Fusion, and Uber says it has received permission to begin testing on public roads in the city of Pittsburgh.

Like other self-driving cars, Uber's is loaded with equipment including laser scanners, radar, and high-resolution cameras, much of which is visible on top the vehicle.

While tests will include autonomous driving, a human driver will still be behind the wheel at all times. Uber says that collecting mapping data is another component of its tests, along with "ensuring it's safe for everyone on the road — pedestrians, cyclists and other drivers."

Pittsburgh is said to be a prime environment for testing autonomous driving, offering various traffic patterns, road types, and weather. But it's likely that the city was chosen because it's the home of Carnegie Mellon, the university where a significant amount of self-driving research has been conducted, and from which Uber has hired more than a few engineers.

Uber's announcement doesn't give a roadmap for when riders might be picked up with a self-driving fleet of vehicles, but it notes that it's vision for the technology includes "less congestion, more affordable and accessible transportation, and far fewer lives lost in car accidents."