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Uber Gets Approval to Resume Testing its Self-Driving Vehicles in Pittsburgh

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【Summary】​Uber received approval from the state of Pennsylvania to resume self-driving car testing on public roads this week following a deadly accident in Arizona in March. Uber said that when does resumes testing, it would do so with two employees in the front seat, enable an automatic braking system at all times, and more strictly monitor safety employees.

FutureCar Staff    Dec 18, 2018 5:39 PM PT
Uber Gets Approval to Resume Testing its Self-Driving Vehicles in Pittsburgh

Uber received approval from the state of Pennsylvania to resume self-driving car testing on public roads this week following a deadly accident in Arizona in March.

A company spokeswoman said to Reuters on Tuesday that Uber has not yet resumed its testing, but plans to shortly. Last month, it was reported that Uber was seeking permission from the state of Pennsylvania to resume testing, seven months after self-driving Uber fatally struck a pedestrian in Arizona.

Uber said that when does resumes testing, it would do so with two employees in the front seat, enable an automatic braking system at all times, and more strictly monitor safety employees.

Prior to the Arizona incident in March, Uber had removed the second safety operator normally sitting in the passenger seat, leaving just one person to oversee the operation of each of Uber's self-driving Volvos. After the Arizona fatality, Uber admitted that its engineers disabled the automatic braking feature on its fleet of Volvo XC90 SUVs when it retrofitted the vehicle for autonomous driving.

Uber said to Reuters that after it resumes its testing it plans to begin driving "a handful" of cars on a mile loop between two company offices near downtown Pittsburgh, the city where Uber first debuted its autonomous vehicles back in 2016, Uber spokeswoman Sarah Abboud said.

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Self-driving Volvo XC90's parked outside of Uber's Pittsburgh headquarters

The relaunch is significantly scaled down from Uber's previous operation, when the ride-hailing giant hired hundreds of drivers and unleashed its fleet of autonomous vehicles on public roads in Pittsburgh, Tempe and San Francisco where it operated at higher speeds and at night in areas crowded with pedestrians with a single safety driver behind the wheel.

Uber said the vehicles will not operate at night or in rain, and speeds will be limited to just 25 miles per hour, Abboud said. The company has no plans to resume picking up passengers in the robot cars, a service Uber launched in 2016.

In December 2016 Uber expanded testing to San Francisco. However, Uber began picking up passengers its self-driving Volvos without obtaining the required California DMV permit. Uber suspended its San Francisco operations after one of its vehicles was captured on a dash cam running a red light controlling a pedestrian crossing in San Francisco's busy downtown district. The video was widely shared on social media and brought much attention to the safety of Uber's self-driving program.

In March, state authorities in Arizona suspended Uber's ability to test its self-driving cars after one of its cars hit and killed a woman crossing the street at night in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe, Uber's largest testing location. The safety driver behind the wheel was watching a TV show on their smartphone seconds before the collision.

The next day, Uber voluntarily halted its entire autonomous car testing program to reevaluate its autonomous driving software, as well as to conduct a "top to bottom safety review" of its autonomous driving program, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said shortly after the Arizona pedestrian fatality.

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