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REVIEW: A Drive in a $140,000 Self-Driving Uber

As the head of Riverlife in Pittsburgh, PA, Vivien Li was given the opportunity to test out a self-driving Uber this summer.

Ms. Li was gracious enough to give us her firsthand experience of the entire trip:

"We were going from the August Wilson Center in Downtown Pittsburgh to Artists Image Resource facility on the North Side. Traffic was relatively light, and we crossed over a bridge to get to the North Side. Our entire trip took about 12-13 minutes.

We were in a Volvo SUV (which is the only test model used by Uber in Pittsburgh). It looked like the current model, and the technician in the front seat said that the vehicle was about $70,000, and the camera on top (Lidar technology) was an additional $70,000."

View of the vehicle from the outside

View from inside of the vehicle looking out

"Overall, it was a very positive experience, with two technicians in the front. When we started, the individual in the driver's seat had his hands on the steering wheel. Once we got going, he took his hands off. He said that if he needs to engage, he puts his foot on the brake, and the vehicle goes into the manual mode.

The individual in the front passenger seat had a very sophisticated lap top, and was monitoring the entire trip by making notes in the lap top. Technicians in the "office" compare the notes with what the camera is seeing all around. Sitting in the back seat, we could look at our screen and see what the camera was seeing (different colors for people, vehicles, stationary objects, etc.)."

Laptop and screen of the technicians monitoring the ride

Screen for passengers to see

"I asked, and the technicians in the car were very clear that they weren't just two guys with driver licenses. Each came from companies where their IT and technical skills were used.

I felt perfectly safe, largely because we were following the speed limit, not making any sudden lane changes, and there were two technicians in the front monitoring the trip. The only part of the trip that was not smooth was when the car jerked forward at the green light after the bridge.

I would give the entire trip a 4.5. This includes safety, reliability, comfort, and ease of use. My daughters are envious (they use both Uber and Lyft), and I have no qualms recommending the self driving car to them."

Every Tuesday we feature a different review of a driverless vehicle. Here are two other reviews if you are interested:

As always, we would love to hear about your experience with any autonomous vehicle. Please share your experience here: https://driverlessratings.com/review

Image credit: Vivien Li

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