Uber expresses confidence as it sends its vehicles back on the road.
Last Friday, Uber’s self-driving car program came to a sudden halt as one of its vehicles was involved in a crash. A human-controlled car failed to yield to the autonomous vehicle during a turn, and both cars collided, sending Uber’s Volvo XC90 onto its side. “The vehicles collided, causing the autonomous vehicle to roll onto its side,” said a police spokesperson, Josie Montenegro, in an email to Reuters. “There were no serious injuries.” Nevertheless, Uber promptly suspended service for its autonomous vehicles in the cities of Tempe, San Francisco, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
During the crash, the self-driving vehicle had a driver and Uber engineer in the front seats, which is a requirement, but it wasn’t carrying any other passengers. A full report of the crash is expected during this week, according to Detective Lily Duran of the Tempe Police Department. The autonomous car is not considered to have been at fault during the collision.
“Driverless cars keep getting better the more they drive, whereas humans have a roughly constant safety record over the years,” said Hod Lipson, a professor of mechanical engineering and roboticist at Columbia University “The idea that somehow a human driver makes the drive more secure is false comfort, and potentially dangerously misleading,” He estimates that humans are responsible for some 23,000 deaths per week due to road accidents.
On Monday, three days after the crash, Uber resumed service of their self-driving taxis in Pittsburgh, the city where the autonomous cars first hit the road in September. Pittsburgh police reports that there have been no reported collisions in the city between Uber cars and other vehicles.
Uber’s self driving division is in the midst of controversy, as the company was banned from the roads in California following failure to register their vehicles with the DMV. The company is also tackling a lawsuit by rival company Waymo, who claims that Uber’s self-driving truck company Otto stole proprietary LiDAR tech when a former employee, Anthony Levandowski, jumped ship to start Otto instead. Levandowski is also behind the DMV debacle.