Last month, Uber began a self-driving car pilot project, taking passengers around Pittsburgh in autonomous mode. But it appears that the programme may have got off to a bumpy start, with reports of multiple problems. Witnesses have revealed that the self-driving Uber cars have been involved in accidents and disobeyed traffic signs in the two weeks since the pilot launched. Uber is now testing autonomous vehicles around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A hybrid Ford Fusion with the Uber logo is being used for mapping data of Steel City and testing its self-driving capabilities on public streets.
Uber on Wednesday launched its self-driving pilot program that allows some passengers to get to their destination in a vehicle that drives itself, marking the company's first public test in the U.S. of the future of the technology. The ride-sharing service rolled out its first fleet of four autonomous vehicles, which come equipped with an Uber driver and an engineer in the front two seats who intervene occasionally, Reuters reports. The Ford Fusion cars have 3D cameras, global positioning systems and a detection system that uses lasers to assess objects on the road. The vehicles can stop at red lights, go at green lights, drive over bridges and maneuver around other vehicles on their own. Earlier this year, Uber said the technology is in its early days, but some still cheered its first step.
Uber temporarily hit the brakes on tests of its self-driving cars following a crash Friday evening in Tempe, AZ, that involved one of the company's autonomous vehicles. Vehicles in Arizona, Pittsburgh and San Francisco were still grounded Sunday while the investigation continued. "We are continuing to look into this incident and can confirm we had no backseat passengers in the vehicle," an Uber spokeswoman emailed USA TODAY on Sunday. The vehicle involved in the accident was in a self-driving mode. Fresco News posted pictures of the flipped Volvo SUV that was involved in the crash.
After Dara Khosrowshahi took over as Uber's chief executive last August, he considered shutting the company's money-losing autonomous vehicle division. A visit to Pittsburgh this spring changed that. In town for a leadership summit, Mr. Khosrowshahi and other Uber executives were briefed on the state of the company's self-driving vehicle research, which is based in Pittsburgh. The group was impressed by the progress its autonomous division had made in testing driverless cars in Pittsburgh and in Arizona, according to three people familiar with the ride-hailing company, who were not authorized to speak publicly. They left the meeting energized, convinced that Uber needed to forge ahead with self-driving cars, the people said.
Uber's dreams of a fleet of self-driving taxis may be on the rocks, if the firm's latest move is anything to go by. The ride-hailing company laid off 100 safety drivers after autonomous vehicle tests were suspended in the US, following a high profile crash in Arizona. Uber initially said it was not shuttering its entire autonomous vehicle program in the aftermath of the incident, in which 49 year old Elaine Herzberg died. Instead, it announced it was focusing on more limited testing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and California, aiming to resume self-driving this summer. That decision may have been revised, if the latest news is anything to go by, with all 100 redundancies at its Pittsburgh base of operations.