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Uber Says its Self-Driving Cars Will be Back on the Road in "a Few Months"

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【Summary】Speaking at the Uber Elevate summit in Los Angeles yesterday, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said that his company's self-driving vehicles will be on the road again "within the next few months," and once that happens "it's going to be in as safe of a way as possible."

Eric Walz    May 10, 2018 11:56 AM PT
Uber Says its Self-Driving Cars Will be Back on the Road in "a Few Months"
author: Eric Walz   

After a self-driving Volvo operated by Uber fatally struck a pedestrian in Arizona two months ago, the company suspended all of its autonomous testing. As a result of the incident, other companies followed suit. Tech companies including Nvidia, paused their autonomous testing to reevaluate their hardware and software. Now, Uber is preparing to resume its own autonomous testing once again.

Speaking at the Uber Elevate summit in Los Angeles yesterday, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said that his company's self-driving vehicles will be on the road again "within the next few months," and once that happens "it's going to be in as safe of a way as possible."

"It'll be within the next few months... I don't know, and the time will be right when the time is right because we're doing a top to bottom safety review, both internally and with independent safety folks coming in to take a look at our culture, our practices, etc," Khosrowshahi told Bloomberg News reporter Brad Stone, when asked if Uber would start testing self-driving cars again.

What is not clear is whether Uber will resume testing in Arizona. The state's governor Doug Ducey wrote to the firm after the incident saying there had been an "unquestionable failure" to make safety the top priority. He ordered officials to suspend the firm's right to drive autonomous vehicles on local roads pending the outcome of the investigation by the National Transport Safety Board—which is still in progress.

In addition to Arizona and Pittsburgh, Uber was testing its self-driving vehicles in California. However, in December 2016, the California DMV revoked Uber's vehicle registrations for failing to obtain the necessary autonomous testing permit after a Uber vehicle was filmed running a red light in San Francisco's downtown area. The video was widely shared on YouTube.

Khosrowshahi was also asked about reports that internal corporate pressure at Uber caused engineers to move too quickly in its autonomous testing to gain ground on rivals Waymo and Lyft.  "You can't sacrifice safety. That's easy to say. There are trade-offs in life and I do think that you have to be aware of unintended consequences in everything that you do," said Khosrowshahi.

Waymo debuted its first fully autonomous cars without the need for a safety driver last November and is planning to launch commercial offering in the suburbs around Phoenix later this year. Uber has reportedly been trying to meet the same goal by the end of this year.


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