By on March 28, 2017

uber volvo autonomous

After Friday’s high-speed crash, it’s back to business as usual for Uber’s autonomous programs. Last week, one of the company’s self-driving Volvos was struck by a flesh-piloted crossover — causing Uber to temporarily ground its entire test fleet. With the exception of the wrecked unit, all of those vehicles are now back in action as the business attempts to get on with R&D while simultaneously moving its legal dispute with Waymo out of the public eye.

Meanwhile, Volvo’s 300-million-dollar alliance with the ride-sharing company remains unperturbed. In the crash’s aftermath, Volvo maintained that it would continue to support Uber and preserve the partnership. 

According to a company spokesperson, Uber’s recently permitted San Francisco vehicles were the first to resume testing, while the Tempe, Arizona and Pittsburgh self-driving mules returned to work Monday evening. With things settled on the streets, Uber now has to worry about its courtroom battle with Alphabet’s Waymo — which has accused to company of pilfering some of its technology when it purchased former Google employee Anthony Levandowski’s Otto autonomous trucking platform.

On Monday, Bloomberg reported that Uber petitioned a San Francisco federal judge to hold an April 13th hearing on its arbitration request for key claims in the complaint filed by Waymo last month. Its lawyers informed the judge that Alphabet’s employment agreements contain broad provisions. However, Waymo seems to have intentionally left Levandowski out of the claim to avoid getting slowed down by just such a move. As Uber is the one being accused of patent-infringement, shifting the judge toward arbitration may be a nonstarter.

Waymo lawyer, Charles Verhoeven, addressed the issue during a March 16th hearing, after Uber’s lawyer Arturo Gonzalez told the court he planned to file a request for arbitration. Without offering details on how it apply to the individuals Waymo accuses of stealing information, Verhoeven reminded U.S. District Judge William Alsup that “those individuals are not parties” within its lawsuit.

After months of bad press, it makes sense that Uber would want to move this court case out of the public eye and buy itself a little time. However, none of the unpleasant publicity has seemed to phase Volvo’s partnership with the company. Still, the automaker has said that the partnership is purely for the sake of hardware development and has carefully distanced itself from Uber’s myriad of problems.

“They have to deal with those things, and it’s their responsibility,” Lex Kerssemakers, CEO of Volvo Car USA, told Automotive News earlier this year.

Dave Sullivan, an analyst at AutoPacific, believes that Volvo has everything to gain by maintaining a professional relationship with Uber. It reaps the rewards of the business’ autonomous testing programs while accepting a negligible amount of risk in exchange. “Volvo, at the top, is run by Chinese management, and they see the big picture,” Sullivan said. “Some human resource hiccups, looking 10 or 15 or 20 years down the road, aren’t going to throw this thing off the track.”

[Image: Volvo]

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14 Comments on “Volvo Sticks with Uber Despite Autonomous Crash and Stolen Tech Litigation...”


  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    Everybody is correctly pointing out that this accident was the fault of the human driver. But: It’s worth noting that you can cause accidents that technically aren’t your fault, whether you’re a human or a computer. I’ve seen people post on forums saying, “I’ve been rear-ended five times but it’s never my fault, what’s wrong” – well, if it stinks everywhere you go, check your own shoes.

    faSDVs may end up being fairly good at *not being technically at fault* for accidents. But if they fail to recognize proximal crazies and don’t drive defensively, they’re going to be in accidents anyway. For example, I avoided an accident a couple of months ago by sensing that a guy in a merge lane was going to wait until the last minute and panic, so I made sure I gunned it to get out of the way; sure enough, he freaked out and jerked his car right into the spot where I would have been when the merge lane ended. If he’d hit me, or if he’d started to swerve and ended up in a single-car crash while I continued none the wiser, it wouldn’t have been my fault. But it wouldn’t have been any less of an accident.

    When it comes to faSDVs, people need to go beyond asking whether these cars *are at fault* for accidents, and ask *whether they’re causing them anyway*. Both problems will have to be solved.

    • 0 avatar
      OldManPants

      Jesus H, are you seriously contending that there’s EVER an excuse for rear-ending someone?

      • 0 avatar
        PeriSoft

        In the case of the questioner I referred to, no, and that’s why it’s still technically the fault of the person doing the rear-ending. But it’s certainly possible to drive in such a way that you’ll end up getting rear-ended more often, or to drive in other ways that will result in other accidents that might not even involve you (as I pointed out above). I don’t think it’s a big stretch to say you shouldn’t drive like you’re driving if you’re constantly in accidents that “aren’t your fault”.

        The whole problem that I’m pointing out is that there are certain expectations for how people behave on the road that result in relatively smooth operation of traffic. If those expectations are violated, even in a “everything is by the book” way, there will be real consequences, and somebody’s going to notice. If it turns out that faSDVs operating in the real world (instead of Google’s touted 3m miles at 30mph with human planned pre-scanned routes in perfect weather) are in, say, 20% more not-at-fault accidents than regular vehicles, that’s not going to fly, no matter how not-at-fault they are.

      • 0 avatar
        brn

        OMP, yes it can happen. A car backed out of a side street and onto the main road. I couldn’t stop in time and rear-ended her. Who’s fault was it that she was rear-ended?

        There are also countless examples of people cutting people off and slamming on the brakes. In those cases, it’s often the fault of the person that was rear ended.

  • avatar
    bikegoesbaa

    All the armchair geniuses on the internet tell me that the technology will never work and the liability issues will never be resolved.

    I wonder what Volvo knows that they don’t?

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    What’s up with that crazy perpendicular parking in the photo?

    • 0 avatar
      SunnyvaleCA

      When the streets are wide enough, why not? Just pack ’em in as tightly as possible.

      Also, parallel parking on a street with that much slope can be challenging. Rain + facing up a steep hill + front-wheel-drive is a recipe for extremely limited traction. Also, rain + facing down a steep hill + rear-wheel-drive is the same problem when trying to go backwards. Add in cold tires from overnight parking and a stick shift with somewhat tall reverse gear and have fun!

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    REALLY GETTING SICK OF THE ARITHMETIC PROBLEM EVERY TIME I TRY TO LOG IN! And then getting dumped into the WordPress site.

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