- National Transportation Safety Board/Handout via REUTERS
- Uber will resume testing its autonomous vehicles, but with human drivers completely in control.
- A self-driving Uber car was involved in a fatal accident in March, in which a pedestrian was killed while the car was in autonomous mode. Uber halted its autonomous vehicle testing program after the crash.
- Uber said it has added new safety features to the cars and that it hopes to revert to testing the cars in autonomous mode “in the coming months.”
Uber is putting its self driving cars back on public roads for the first time since one of its cars fatally struck a pedestrian in March.
Uber said on Tuesday that it has resumed testing its self-driving car prototypes in Pittsburgh, but that, for now at least, the cars will operate only in “manual” mode, with a human driver in control at all times.
“While we are eager to resume testing of our self-driving system, we see manual driving as an important first step in piloting these safeguards,” said Eric Meyhofer, the head of Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group, in a blog post announcing the news. He said the company hoped to begin testing the cars in autonomous mode once again in the “coming months.”
The move is an important sign that Uber, the world’s largest ride-hailing service, does not intend to back off from efforts to develop self-driving car technology despite the costs and the risks.
Uber halted testing of its autonomous vehicles after the fatal crash in Tempe Arizona earlier this year, and had not resumed them since.
The car that killed the pedestrian in Arizona had detected that there was something in the road, but didn’t automatically brake or attempt to avoid a collision. While there was a test driver in the car, the driver was watching the TV show The Voice on the car’s dashboard before the crash and didn’t brake until it was too late.
Uber said on Tuesday that the cars in Pittsburgh will be operated by two, alternating human drivers. The company said it has added new safety features to the cars including a real time driver monitoring system designed to ensure the human drivers are attentive to the road, modifications to the dashboard screen to limit distractions, and a collision avoidance system that will be enabled during manual driving.