Carnegie Mellon University
September 14, 2016

President Suresh Takes Ride in Uber Driverless Car

By Ken Walters / 412-268-1151 /

Carnegie Mellon University President Subra Suresh joined Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto Wednesday for the first official ride in an Uber self-driving car, as the company rolled out its high-tech innovation in the home of autonomous vehicles.

The commercial application of autonomous driving has drawn national attention in recent days, highlighting the formative role Carnegie Mellon research has played in a field that could ultimately save thousands of lives a year.

“Universities like Carnegie Mellon have the power to change the world. This demonstration is a very good example of that,” Suresh said. “This is why innovation is so closely connected to research universities. For several decades, CMU has pioneered the technology behind autonomous vehicles.”

The inaugural ride began at City Hall for a loop around the downtown area. The Uber car then drove Suresh and Peduto to the CMU campus in Oakland.

Noting the car’s acceleration and slowing down was very smooth, Suresh added that he was particularly pleased to see two CMU alumni in the front seat of the car. Peter Castelli (2004), Uber test operations manager, rode in the passenger seat, while David Power (2016), Uber vehicle operator, was behind the hands-free wheel.

The birthplace of self-driving or autonomous vehicle (AV) technology, Carnegie Mellon has been developing AV technology for more than 30 years. To date, CMU has filed more than 140 invention disclosures for AV technologies.

The university’s 14th self-driving car, a 2011 Cadillac SRX, takes ramps, merges onto highways and cruises at 70 mph. The test vehicle looks like a production model SRX because its sensors are integrated into the vehicle's body. In June 2014, Congress members rode through Washington, D.C., in the self-driving Cadillac.

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