While there is a lot of speculation regarding the future of self-driving cars, Uber is plowing ahead and has already got some pilot cars parked in their ATG offices in Pittsburgh. These are only first-generation cars, while the second-generation ones are being test driven at Uber's test track. There are a few self-driving cars already in operation in Pittsburgh since 2016, but they require one or two operators during the developmental stage.
Uber's hardware engineer Brian Zajac sits in the test car and will take over when the car requires him to do so, usually when the cars AI tells the operator that it has to go offline. The second employee in the car will take over the driving and Brian will review the software and hardware performance. During the self-drive mode, the operator can view the screens that the car is "seeing" in real time, which are video sensors placed around the car showing all the traffic and distances between the car and other objects. The passengers in the back seat can also see the same input screens from a backseat iPad linked into the system.
For now, the test is ongoing, and Zajac stated that he expects not so distant future cars will be autonomous, driving up to passengers with no attendant in the car. He also stated that while the cars look the same, the hidden hardware and mechanical changes under the hood make the car different. Amongst the many changes are an array of high-resolution cameras that will be able to address poor visibility weather conditions. Another main change is the reduction of moving parts, the less moving parts, the longer lasting and sturdier is the piece of hardware. Zajac claims that the next generation of cars will have much more passenger and luggage space.
Our take on this, it's a long way yet to go. Autonomous cars have to factor in many other issues such as the other cars human factor. When a human driver sees something strange they react, sometimes I time, sometimes not. The AI system will have to be able to read the road and car behavior to assess quickly and decide what to do to avoid a collision. The real benefits of a driverless car are that it will never be drunk.