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Uber's Self-Driving Cars Will Mean Cheaper Rides

Even though the array of instruments mounted on top of this Ford Fusion looks kind of like a missile launcher, what you’re actually seeing is a combination of radars, laser scanners and high-res cameras powering Uber’s first official self-driving car.

The car comes from Uber’s Pittsburgh-based Advanced Technology Center and, if you’re lucky, you might be able to catch it driving down the streets of the Steel City. Using its instrument cluster, the car can weave its way through city traffic, while simultaneously collecting mapping that should help improve navigation in upcoming autonomous cars – all with the blessing of local government and law officials.

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However, in a blog post detailing its new car, Uber admits that its tech is still in the early days of testing, meaning it will be at least a few years before driverless vehicles will show up when you call for an Uber.

In a ride along in Uber’s new car, a reporter for the Pittsburg Tribune-Review noted that while there has yet to be a crash with regular cars, the system still relies on a human driver to control the car when it encounters a challenging situation such as a car swerving into its lane or an event it doesn’t recognize.

It’s not a big surprise to learn the Uber is investing in self-driving tech. After recent labor disputes with its drivers and the promise of increased safety, Uber transitioning to a fleet of driverless cars would be a win for both the company and its customers, who stand to benefit from potentially cheaper fares and an increased availability of cars.

The question now becomes which company will be the first to bring a full fleet of autonomous vehicles to the road. Will it be established automakers such as BMW or Ford, ride-sharing services like Lyft or Uber, or Silicon Valley tech companies such as Google and Apple?