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Uber Spreads its Autonomous Program to Dallas

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【Summary】The Texas city joins Pittsburgh, Toronto, and San Francisco as locations where the ride-hailing company is testing its autonomous cars.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Sep 21, 2019 6:00 AM PT
Uber Spreads its Autonomous Program to Dallas
An autonomous Uber development vehicle at the company’s test site near Pittsburgh.

Uber is testing its vehicles in a number of North American cities. There's Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Toronto. And now, Uber is expanding its autonomous car operations to one area it hasn't been: the South. In a blog post on Medium, Uber announced that it would be expanding its Advanced Technologies Group arm to Dallas, Texas.

Uber Expanding To Dallas
 
The decision to spread to Texas marks the first time Uber has expanded its self-driving car program since the fatal accident in Arizona in March 2018. The driverless vehicles won't be put onto the road immediately, but will come out in November. The cars will be manually operated, which means that one of Uber's specially-trained operators will be in control of the machines at all time, and can be spotted driving around downtown Dallas. Essentially, what Uber will be doing with its "autonomous machines" is collecting data.
 
While Uber may be giving autonomous rides in other parts of North America, it doesn't have any plans to do so in Texas – at least for the moment. "The data we collect will inform our next steps – we may not look to test our self-driving system in Dallas immediately following this first round of data gather," said the company in its blog post. "While we are certainly excited by this possibility, we are also committed to ensuring that every mile we drive on public roads contributes meaningfully to our development work."
 
Clearly, it sounds like Uber is taking a cautious approach to expanding its program after the unfortunate accident in Arizona. So instead of setting its self-driving vehicles loose in Dallas, Uber will first let its vehicles gather data on the city's layout and then, presumably, begin autonomous testing. Speaking of the city's layout, Uber claims Dallas will provide its self-driving vehicles with unique data.

Why Dallas, Texas?

Dallas also offers us the opportunity to explore a different type of road network for our self-driving technology," said the company in the blog post. "The city's modern infrastructure, unique traffic patterns, road characteristics, and climate will offer new information that can inform our ongoing engineering efforts."
 
Uber's been on thin ice ever since the fatal crash in Tempe, Arizona in March 2018. The vehicle, which was operating in fully-autonomous mode and had a safety driver behind the wheel, struck and killed a pedestrian that was walking her bicycle across the street. After the accident, the company shut down its autonomous program and pulled its self-driving cars from the road. Local authorities cleared Uber of wrongdoing, but the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board is still conducting an investigation into the incident. Things went back to normal last December .
 
The end result to adding a new city to its list of places to test its cars will help Uber with its overall goal of coming out with safe self-driving cars for customers. "We're on a mission to deliver safe self-driving technology to Uber riders around the world," said the company.

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