Subscribe to Breaking News emails

You have successfully subscribed to the Breaking News email.

Subscribe today to be the first to to know about breaking news and special reports.

Uber's Self-Driving Cars Now Available for a Ride in Pittsburgh

by Michael Cappetta and Jo Ling Kent /

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

Self-driving cars operated by ride-sharing service Uber hit the public roads Wednesday in Pittsburgh, as the company launches a pilot program that will pick up actual passengers.

Uber has spent months outfitting Ford Fusions with self-driving hardware and software, including 360-degree radar, and a laser system that can detect obstacles in the road.

Customers won't be riding alone in the self-driving car, since an Uber safety driver will hover over the wheel in the driver’s seat, while another engineer monitors real-time data on a laptop.

NBC News was given early access to the self-driving vehicle, and the opportunity to take it for a test drive.

For More: Watch NBC Nightly News on Wednesday 14 September at 6:30 p.m. ET for a Behind-the-Scenes Look at How Uber Developed the Self-Driving Car

Engineers spent nearly 18 months in Uber's “Advanced Technologies Lab” in Pittsburgh with the goal of making the self-driving Uber a reality, said a company spokesperson. The vehicles are equipped with 20 cameras, 7 lasers, roof and trunk GPS antennae, and a custom software platform.

Related: Fax Machines in Cars? That's What We Wanted in the 1990s

“This pilot is a big step forward. Real-world testing is critical to the success of this technology. And creating a viable alternative to individual car ownership is important to the future of cities,” Uber CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick said in a blog post with the self-driving program’s executive, Anthony Levandowski.

“Safety needs to be the fail safe,” said Debbie Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council, addressing the issue of self-driving cars on public roads. “They've got to be conservative — and we know that other people on the roads are not always taking the conservative approach.”

Read More: Uber and Volvo Team Work Together on Self-Driving Technology

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
MORE FROM news