Uber Resumes Self-Driving Car Testing Program Days After Arizona Autonomous Car Accident


After a car crash involving one of Uber's self-driving Volvo vehicles occurred in Tempe, Arizona, the company temporarily halted self-driving tests in Pittsburgh and Arizona in light of an ensuing investigation. It didn't take long for Uber, however, to resume operations, as it's now restarting its autonomous ride-hailing tests just three days after the incident occurred.

Uber Resumes Self-Driving Program

Uber has apparently wrapped up the investigation and decided to clear its autonomous cars to once again brave the streets of three cities where it's piloting a self-driving program — Tempe, San Francisco, and Pittsburgh.

That's according to an Uber spokeswoman who refused to be name-dropped, as Reuters reports. On Friday, March 24, Uber suspended the program in all its pilot cities following the crash, in which a human-driven car "failed to yield" to Uber's self-driving vehicle when turning, according to a spokeswoman from the Tempe police department. At the time of the crash, the Uber vehicle was in autonomous mode. There were zero reports of major injuries from the incident.

Uber Car Crash In Arizona

The vehicle was manned by an Uber driver and engineer, a staple requirement of Uber's tests. No passengers were in the backseat, as Reuters reports. A detailed police report of the incident is expected this week, according to the Tempe police department, adding that Uber's vehicle wasn't at fault. Fresco News first uploaded the photo on Twitter, which showed the aftermath — a car flipped on its side, with a visibly damaged car close to it, clearly indicating a collision. Uber confirmed that the scenes depicted in the images took place in Tempe.

Self-driving technology experts say that such incidents will happen, although as the technology of autonomous vehicles improve overtime, so will road safety. By contrast, there are no reported crash incidents tied to Uber's self-driving vehicles in Pittsburgh.

Uber hasn't explained why it's resuming self-driving operations so rapidly after the incident, although it's safe to presume that the company might be confident that the crash didn't stem from any underlying problems with its autonomous testing, thus warranting resumption.

Even so, the crash comes at a generally troubling time for Uber, who has met a trove of controversies over the past few months. Issues circling around its bleak picture of workplace culture, supposed bad business decisions, a lawsuit, and CEO Travis Kalanick's personality have all contributed to Uber's string of tense press coverage.

There have already been many issues beforehand, but a significant one, in which Uber users kicked a #DeleteUber campaign into high gear, was the starting point of its seemingly continued endless strain of woes. This, of course, refers to Uber's alleged exploitation of Trump's now-blocked immigration ban, in which it turned off surge pricing for Uber drivers driving around a location where cab drivers were holding a protest.

The campaign to delete Uber calmed a bit but not for long. It was reared into effect once again, when Susan J. Fowler, a former Uber engineer, published a scathing tell-all detailing the company's horrifying treatment of sexual abuse and harassment in the workplace, the reports of which primarily went ignored, downplayed, and even used against the individual who was reporting such instances.

It didn't end there. Alongside the flurry of similar sexual abuse reports compelled by the publication of Fowler's blog post, Kalanick was also caught on video arguing heatedly with an Uber driver. The driver, one of the company's original drivers, was lamenting at Uber's bad business practices and was accusing Kalanick of not caring about the financial welfare of drivers like him. Suffice it to say that the argument did not end well.

The troubles spurred Kalanick to admit that he needed leadership. As of this moment, Uber is looking for a chief operating officer to do exactly that.

Uber's self-driving efforts, however, are being challenged by Google's self-driving unit Waymo, which alleges that Otto, a company Uber acquired, stole plans and blueprints detailing Google's proprietary driverless technology.

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