Uber has halted its self-driving car trials in San Francisco and agreed to work with state regulators on obtaining proper permits for 16 test cars. The move amounts to a climbdown by Uber, which had last week argued it didn't need to obtain the permits. That sparked a demand from the state that the cars be pulled off the roads immediately and a threat of legal action if they were not. Uber had argued its cars didn't require autonomous car permits because they didn't meet the law's definition of being autonomous. It said the cars require a driver in the front seat at all times, and so are not autonomous but more akin to Tesla cars with advanced auto-pilot software.
Attorneys for Uber worked Thursday morning to convince a federal judge that a case brought by rival Waymo over the alleged theft of trade secrets from the company should be dealt with in arbitration and not in a public trial, the latest twist in the high-stakes legal battle over the future of autonomous cars.
Uber announced that it will start self-driving trials in Pittsburgh later this month, but it was beat to the punch by a much less well-known company. Starting today, nuTonomy will offer rides to Singapore residents in specially equipped Mitsubishi i-MiEV or Renault Zoe electric vehicles. As with Uber, passengers won't be alone with a robotic driver like Silicon Valley's hapless Jared. A nuTonomy engineer will be along to monitor the vehicle, and a safety driver will "assume control if needed to ensure passenger comfort and safety," the company wrote. The rides will be free to start with, and the company will stick to an area called "One-North" for the tests.
Singapore and MIT have been at the forefront of autonomous vehicle development. First, there were self-driving golf buggies. Now, leveraging similar technology, MIT and Singaporean researchers have developed and deployed a self-driving wheelchair at a hospital. Spearheaded by Daniela Rus, the Andrew (1956) and Erna Viterbi Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and director of MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, this autonomous wheelchair is an extension of the self-driving scooter that launched at MIT last year -- and it is a testament to the success of the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology, or SMART, a collaboration between researchers at MIT and in Singapore. Rus, who is also the principal investigator of the SMART Future Urban Mobility research group, says this newest innovation can help nurses focus more on patient care as they can get relief from logistics work which includes searching for wheelchairs and wheeling patients in the complex hospital network.
Britain is pushing ahead with tests of self-driving cars on public roads despite mounting public concern over safety after a pedestrian was killed by one in the US. The country's biggest carmaker, Jaguar Land Rover, has been experimenting with autonomous cars on roads in the Midlands and is set to demonstrate more of the cars' features, including emergency braking assistance, on urban streets this week. Government-backed trials using small autonomous vehicles in south London are due to end on Friday, with organisers reporting widespread public unease about the implications for road safety and cybersecurity. A self-driving Uber car killed a woman in Tempe, Arizona on Sunday night – the first time a self-driving vehicle has killed someone that was not its occupant. Elaine Herzberg, 49, was wheeling her bicycle when she was struck by the Volvo, and later died of her injuries in hospital.