Uber is in the early stages of developing "mapping, safety, and autonomy" systems, and its first vehicles tasked with doing so have just hit the road.
Where? In Pittsburgh, where the Pittsburgh Business Times spotted a black Ford with a rather conspicuous set of tech on its roof – a LIDAR system that looks quite similar to the one sported by Google's self-driving cars.
The side of the car reads "Uber: Advanced Technologies Center."
— PBT (@PghBizTimes) May 21, 2015
So, is Uber developing self-driving cars? Absolutely. Is this one of them? Not quite.
"This is not a self-driving test car," an Uber spokesperson said in a statement to The Verge. "This vehicle is part of our early research efforts regarding mapping, safety and autonomy systems."
But Uber hasn't been shy about its intentions. Earlier this year, Uber announced a “strategic partnership” with Carnegie Mellon University that saw the creation of the “Uber Advanced Technologies Center” near the school’s campus.
“The center will focus on the development of key long-term technologies that advance Uber’s mission of bringing safe, reliable transportation to everyone, everywhere,” said Uber. More specifically, “mapping and vehicle safety and autonomy technology.”
— Ethan Lott (@PBT_Ethan) May 22, 2015
“We are excited to join the community of Pittsburgh and partner with the experts at CMU, whose breadth and depth of technical expertise, particularly in robotics, are unmatched. As a global leader in urban transportation, we have the unique opportunity to invest in leading edge technologies to enable the safe and efficient movement of people and things at giant scale. This collaboration and the creation of the Uber Advanced Technologies Center represent an important investment in building for the long term of Uber,” said Uber Chief Product Officer Jeff Holden in February.
Uber's long term goals most definitely include autonomous vehicles.