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Uber Ends All of its Self-Driving Operations in California

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【Summary】After a tumultuous year of scandals, lawsuits, and the ousting of its CEO Travis Kalanick, Uber has suffered another setback. The ride-hailing company, who was betting its future on autonomous cars, is ending all of its self-driving-car testing in California.

Eric Walz    Mar 27, 2018 2:57 PM PT
Uber Ends All of its Self-Driving Operations in California

After a tumultuous year of scandals, lawsuits, and the ousting of its CEO Travis Kalanick, Uber has suffered another setback. The ride-hailing company, who was betting its future on autonomous cars, is ending all of its self-driving-car testing in California, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

The announcement follows a fatal crash last week in Tempe, Ariz., in which an Uber vehicle operating in autonomous mode struck and killed a pedestrian. The incident brought much attention to the safety of testing self-driving vehicles on public streets in the U.S.

What's more alarming is that the backup driver was not even looking at the road ahead when the collision occurred, bringing attention to the effectiveness of Uber's human backup drivers.

After the accident on March 18, the ride-hailing giant company temporarily suspended its autonomous car testing in four cities; Tempe, Pittsburgh, Toronto and San Francisco.

Uber notified the California DMV about its decision in a letter. "Uber has indicated that it will not renew its current permit to test autonomous vehicles in California," said the letter from Brian Soublet, DMV deputy director/chief counsel, to Austin Heyworth, Uber public affairs manager. Uber's current permit will expires on March 31, the letter said.

Before the company could resume autonomous testing in California, it is required to apply for a new permit. "Any application for a new permit will need to address any follow-up analysis or investigations from the recent crash in Arizona and may also require a meeting with the department," Soublet wrote.

uber volvo.jpg

A self-driving Uber Volvo XC90

The state of California, unlike Arizona where the fatal accident occurred, requires all autonomous vehicle makers to get special registrations for their vehicles and the cars' operators, to submit reports of all accidents, and to produce an annual report on "disengagements," which is the term used when a human takes over control of the autonomous vehicle for safety reasons.

Uber had not even produce a report, an indication of its plans to cease operations.

The New York Times recently reported that Uber's cars were struggling to meet the company's target of one operator intervention per 13 miles in Arizona. In comparison, Cars from Waymo, the self-driving unit of Google parent Alphabet, which has logged the most self-driving miles of any company, went about 5,6000 miles between interventions in California, according to its disengagement reports.

Arizona has portrayed itself as a more-welcoming, less-regulated environment for testing self-driving technology, and the state's governor, Doug Ducey welcomed Uber there last year.

Uber's conflict with the California DMV first began in December of 2016, when it started testing self-driving cars in the state without the required permits. Uber argued that they didn't need it, since their vehicles are technically not capable of "self-driving" on their own.

Uber backed down and eventually applied, and was granted the permit after the CAlifornia DMV revoked all of Uber's vehicle registrations. However, it shipped its self-driving Volvos to Arizona in the interim, and never resumed its autonomous operations in California.

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