It’ll just be a matter of months before driverless cars hit Boston’s streets, city officials said Wednesday.
“If this technology is going to yield benefits for the consumer, we want to make sure it works in the city of Boston,” said Chris Osgood, the city’s chief of streets. “We want to make sure we’re doing our due diligence and understanding what the implications are. How do we set up the right policies and take the right approach to this so it’s going to have the biggest net benefit?”
The announcement came as Pittsburgh started testing autonomous Ubers on its streets.
Boston is partnering with the World Economic Forum to test driverless vehicles to develop policies. Details have yet to be worked out although the WEF is talking to a number of companies.
Karl Iagnemma, chief executive of nuTonomy of Cambridge, Massachusetts, said Boston’s weather, complex streets and drivers, ranked the worst in the U.S., make the city perfect for testing self-driving cars. NuTonomy started a self-driving taxi pilot program in Singapore in August.
“We’re definitely interested,” Iagnemma told the Boston Herald. “It offers the entire range of driving difficulty and complexity, from easy driving environments to really the most complex driving environments.”
The Pittsburgh experiment is limited to a select group of Uber customers who were to receive an email inviting them to participate.
“This Pittsburgh pilot is our opportunity for real-world testing so we can learn more about what makes riders feel confident and comfortable and what we can do to improve the Uber self-driving experience,” Emily Bartel, product manager at Uber Advanced Technology Center, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Fourteen cars are available, all Ford Fusion hybrids, equipped with 20 cameras and seven lasers for the lidar (radar with lasers) detection system. They’ll also come with a specially trained driver who can take control, just in case.
PGH City Paper compared riding in a driverless Uber to riding with someone who has just learned how to drive but has yet to master the nuances.