Uber is testing its self-driving cars in a fake city it built in Pittsburgh, called Almono. The fake city has a giant roundabout, fake cars, and roaming mannequins that jump out into the street without warning. Uber also uses Almono to train vehicle operators before allowing them to monitor the cars in the real world.
Uber's self-driving-car pilot isn't without its controversy, but the program is still alive and well in Pittsburgh.
The ride-hailing giant published a new video earlier this month showing a glimpse of its fake city where the company's robocars learn how to drive in the real world.
Called Almono, the fake city is built on an old steel mill site along the Monongahela River in the Hazelwood neighborhood of Pittsburgh. It has a giant roundabout, fake cars, and roaming mannequins that jump out 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 is 42 acres, but Uber has asked the city zoning board for permission to extend the city by 13,000 square feet. The request shows the vital role the track plays in not only preparing self-driving cars to enter the world, but training the vehicle operators who sit behind the wheel to prepare 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," Rick McKahan, an Uber vehicle operator, said in an interview. "In most situations, we simulate those in such a way that they're worse than anything you would see out on public roads."
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