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Tuesday 28 March 2017

VIDEO: What's it like to ride inside Uber's self-driving cars?

Driverless cars

Pól Ó Conghaile

Pól Ó Conghaile

It's official. The world's first self-driving cars are now available to hail on the streets of Pittsburgh, USA.

The cars, launched on a pilot basis by ride-hailing service Uber, are now undergoing "real-world testing" in the Steel City.

This video (above) gives potential customers an insight into what the cars look like, and what it feels like to be a passenger inside.

The fleet of six Ford Fusion cars is equipped with traffic-light detecting cameras, a weather-detecting radar system and 20 spinning lasers that generate a continuous, 360-degree, 3-D map of the surrounding environment.

All of the pilot vehicles are equipped with a 'Safety Driver' - a human being who sits up front "to make sure the drive goes smoothly," the company says.

Safety drivers can intervene for many reasons, including bad weather.

A passenger look on as he rides in a pilot model of an Uber self-driving car on September 13, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Photo: ANGELO MERENDINO/AFP/Getty Images
A passenger look on as he rides in a pilot model of an Uber self-driving car on September 13, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Photo: ANGELO MERENDINO/AFP/Getty Images
A biker passes a pilot model of the Uber self-driving car on September 13, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Photo: ANGELO MERENDINO/AFP/Getty Images

Early volunteer passengers included Taylor Pollier, 27, who told PA that the Fusion "felt sharp" and his 15-minute ride to work felt "like taking an Uber any other day".

In the future, Uber believes self-driving cars will operate 24/7.

Before scaling up, however, it needs to demonstrate that the cars can handle all the traffic, weather and safety challenges that a big city presents.

"Of course, we can’t predict exactly what the future will hold," said Travis Kalanick, Uber's CEO and Co-Founder, in a post on the company's newsroom.

The inside of an Uber self-driving car on September 13, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Photo: ANGELO MERENDINO/AFP/Getty Images
The inside of an Uber self-driving car on September 13, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Photo: ANGELO MERENDINO/AFP/Getty Images
One of Uber's self-driving Ford Fusions. Photo: Uber
A passenger look on as he rides in a pilot model of an Uber self-driving car on September 13, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Photo: ANGELO MERENDINO/AFP/Getty Images

"But we know that self-driving Ubers have enormous potential to further our mission and improve society: reducing the number of traffic accidents; freeing up the 20pc of space in cities currently used to park the world’s billion plus cars; and cutting congestion, which wastes trillions of hours every year."

The race for driverless cars is well and truly underway, with Silicon Valley stalwarts and traditional automobile giants like Google, Audi and Nissan just some of the companies investing millions into testing and development.

Ford recently announced plans for a fully driverless car for use in ride-hailing and car-sharing programmes by 2021, according to PA.

Others, like Mercedes-Benz, are adding autonomous features in phases.

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