Uber ATC Director, Raffi Kirkoviana tested Uber’s self-driving cars on September 13th, 2016 to collect data involving its advanced technologies and riding experience. It took the Robotic Center at Carneige Mellon University 18 months to research and develop Uber’s latest autonomous technology. A small group of spectators were invited to observe the test drive of 14 Ford Fusions cars stimulated by cameras and radar equipment. The test started at Uber’s Advanced Technologies Campus near Downtown Pittsburgh and extended throughout the city and the Strip District. Kirkoviana shared his experience as a passenger and driver to TechCrunch.
The demostration began by an employee giving Kirkoviana a phone to use to request a ride on the Uber app. When Kirkoviana was positioned in the back seat of the Ford Fusion, he was instructed to select the ready-to-go button on a tablet that displayed a live view surrounding the automobile. He road with an engineer driver and front engineer passenger through Lawrence neighborhood, downtown, Strip District, and over 9th Street Bridge. The drive had good responses and encountered a few struggles when other automobiles were backing up or parked in a lane. The self-driving Ford Fusion also experienced a struggle while positioning on the bridge and approaching a truck.
The engineer driver had to change lanes manually when a big truck was parked in the same lane of the self-driving car and a city worker unexpectedly darted from in front of the truck. The self-driving cars received positive reviews involving its surroundings of stopped transportation, traffic lights and traffic laws. If there was a bus turning or picking up passengers, the Ford Fusion would automatically stop. The Uber’s advanced technology and intelligent software reads the red, blue and yellow traffic lights.
Kirkorian shared his experience driving autonomously back to the Uber Advanced Technologies Campus. He pressed a silver button on the console when a blue light turned-on on the dashboard. The front seat driver is able to return the self-driving back to the control of the driver by pressing a red button, the brake pedal, or accelerator pedal. He had to use the function to avoid a stopped van parked on a lane. After the test drive was over, Kirkorian described the ride as gentle with occasional stops.