Uber joins race for driverless cars

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Uber carImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Hello - anyone in there?

US car-hailing company Uber has joined the race for driverless car technology, confirming it is testing a vehicle on the streets of Pittsburgh.

The company said in a statement it had outfitted a Ford Fusion with radar, laser scanners and cameras.

Uber's project is being carried out in partnership with Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University.

More and more car and technology firms are partnering up to develop self-driving vehicles.

Aside from pioneer Google, companies like Tesla are also developing the technology, while Chinese car and tech firms have also made significant progress.

Image source, Uber
Image caption,
Relax, there's still a driver monitoring from inside the car

Analysis: Dave Lee, BBC North America Technology Reporter

Uber's ultimate goal is a complete end to car ownership - and it's wasting no time.

It wants you to be able to summon a car, have it arrive in less than five minutes, and take you where you want to go.

In major cities it has just about hit that goal. The average time for being picked up by an Uber is less than five minutes. This week, the company began a scheme that gave all residents in a small San Francisco community $100 (£68.50) every month to spend on Uber.

But Uber's big inconvenience is the fact it needs drivers, and so this line of research is about eliminating that final piece of the puzzle to boost profits even more.

Uber isn't alone - rival ride-sharing service Lyft announced a tie-up with Chevrolet to use autonomous driving as well, but it's Uber that seems unstoppable in its goal to be the dominant force in global ground travel.

Uber said in its statement that real-world testing was "critical to our efforts to develop self-driving technology", and explained a trained driver was still monitoring operations in the car at all times.

The company has also recently joined a coalition with Google and several car makers to help steer the regulations needed to make self-drive cars a reality.

Together with Ford, Volvo and Lyft, they aim to lobby lawmakers and regulators on some of the legal barriers that would need to be changed before driverless cars could hit the roads.