It’s Happening: Futuristic Cars Hit San Francisco’s Streets Today…

If you’re still waiting for news about flying cars, well, you’re going to have to keep waiting a little bit longer. It seems that “car science” is going in a different direction as is evident by this story out of California.

The streets of San Francisco will soon be hosting driver-less cars from Uber.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, three hundred employees of Uber’s automated car-driving program, led by the company’s Advanced Technologies Group, are testing out self-driving Volvo XC90 sport utility vehicles around the Bay Area.

Based out of the 28-acre Pier 70 neighborhood, Uber’s San Fran headquarters has concerted a formerly mothballed industrial area into a fledgling industrial park where much of the driverless car testing is taking place.

Starting on March 7, the company’s researchers will begin hailing, riding in and assessing the performance of the vehicles as they travel to and from work.

“It’s a really nice connection for engineers to have to what they’re working on,” said Brian Torcellini, Uber senior manager of testing operations. “You can look at metrics on paper, get emails and feedback about a vehicle’s performance, but to actually, physically experience the nuances of the self-driving software is powerful. Having that connection keeps them focused on the overall context rather than one engineering challenge at a time.”

While the tests are conducted, the cars will have back up drivers until the California state legislature begins issuing permits for truly driverless vehicles that it approved of earlier this year.

The Chronicle writes:

“For her job as an Uber test operator, Michelle Ortega already rides in the self-driving cars all day long, either as a backup driver or in the navigator’s seat. But she’s looking forward to getting a different perspective on them.

“’You work on something every day, so it’s exciting to experience the progress and change yourself,’ she said. ‘This will give me a better understanding of what it will be like as a (ride-hailing) service.’”

Uber states that it is testing the vehicles, with backup drivers, in Arizona and Pittsburgh, with the Pennsylvania site allowing its employees to request rides to and from work as well.

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