Recently, Uber’s has been in the process of converting its human operated cars to a AI-driven driverless taxi, but the race for true autonomous driving tech is still ongoing. However, there are many other tech giants working towards this, including Google, Tesla, Apple.
Uber’s self-driving-car pilot has remained in controversy, but they are moving towards their goal and planning breakthroughs in Pittsburgh. The fake city program planned by Uber to train vehicle operators is dynamic, as it requires the trainee to complete three weeks of written assessments and road tests. An Uber representative said the company employs hundreds of safety drivers, but declined to provide a specific count.
Before taking the cars into the real world, however, vehicle operators first practice on the ALMONO test track, which proves they are capable of driving in Downtown Pittsburgh, the Strip District, Bloomfield, Shadyside, Southside, Oakland, and Squirrel Hill. The company has published a video this month, showing a glimpse of its fake city, where the its robocars learn how to drive in the real world.
The fake city is known as ALMONO. It is built on an old steel mill site along the Monongahela River in Hazelwood. It has a giant roundabout, fake cars, and roaming mannequins that jump into the street without warning. There are even containers meant to simulate buildings, training the cars to operate even when looming structures block their line of sight.
ALMONO measures about 42 acres, but Uber plans to ask Hazelwood zoning board for permission to extend the city to 13,000 square-feet. The request shows the vital role the track plays in preparing self-driving cars to enter the world, but also training the vehicle operators that sit behind the wheel for the unexpected.
“We have obstacles and mannequins that move and can cross the street in front of the car. We have prop vehicles zooming around,” an Uber vehicle operator, Rick McKahan. “In most situations, we simulate those in such a way that they’re worse than anything you would see out on public roads.”