Uber Pulls the Plug on Autonomous Vehicle Testing in Arizona

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
uber pulls the plug on autonomous vehicle testing in arizona

The area around Phoenix, Arizona can say goodbye to the fleet of self-driving Volvo SUVs operated by Uber Technologies. The ride-sharing company, which suspended all on-road autonomous vehicle testing after a fatal pedestrian collision in March, has announced it’s shutting down its operations in that state.

Up to 300 employees stand to lose their jobs.

While the departure hints at a newfound culture of caution and discipline at Uber, it isn’t terminating its self-driving program altogether, nor will its conventional services leave Arizona. The company’s self-driving vehicles could be on the road again this summer.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Eric Meyhofer, head of Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group, informed employees of the pullout in a memo Wednesday. Most of those let go are safety drivers, like the one behind the wheel of the vehicle that hit Elaine Herzberg as she crossed a darkened Tempe street.

While the distracted safety driver did not react in the brief moment the pedestrian was visible, the fact that the vehicle did nothing was cause for alarm. The vehicle’s lidar system should have detected her presence in front of the car from some distance, prompting emergency avoidance measures. This didn’t happen. Uber’s lidar supplier blames the company’s software — a claim backed by an anonymous source who says the Volvo did see the victim, but chose to do nothing.

Accident probes by both Uber and federal investigators are ongoing.

In a statement, Uber claimed it is committed to continuing the development of self-driving vehicles, and that is planned to resume road testing “in the near future.”

“In the meantime, we remain focused on our top-to-bottom safety review, having brought on former NTSB Chair Christopher Hart to advise us on our overall safety culture,” the company stated.

Uber chose to let its California test license lapse in the wake of the Tempe crash, rather than renew it. Testing also shut down in Toronto. Reportedly, the company is in talks to resume on-road testing in Pittsburgh (the home base for Uber’s driverless efforts) at some point this summer.

According to the Washington Post, the company’s interest in California testing hasn’t been extinguished by the collision. Talks are underway with the cities of San Francisco and Sacramento, as well as state officials.

[Image: Uber Technologies]

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  • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on May 24, 2018

    I don't understand why they would stop this testing only in Arizona - political reasons or legal reasons, or both? I'd love to hear the internal legal discussions at these AV companies, and how they justify absorbing the liability on Level 4 and 5 systems of the future. Does anyone know what SAE level the Uber cars claim to be? They're certainly not Level 2; I'm guessing Level 4.

  • Tylanner Tylanner on May 24, 2018

    Those politicians, that supposedly represent their constituents, involved with allowing this live-testing should be promptly replaced...

  • Jeff S Corey--We know but we still want to give our support to you and let TTAC know that your articles are excellent and better than what the typical articles are.
  • Jeff S A sport utility vehicle or SUV is a car classification that combines elements of road-going passenger cars with features from off-road vehicles, such as raised ground clearance and four-wheel drive.There is no commonly agreed-upon definition of an SUV and usage of the term varies between countries. Thus, it is "a loose term that traditionally covers a broad range of vehicles with four-wheel drive." Some definitions claim that an SUV must be built on a light truck chassis; however, broader definitions consider any vehicle with off-road design features to be an SUV. A [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crossover_(automobile)]crossover SUV[/url] is often defined as an SUV built with a unibody construction (as with passenger cars), however, the designations are increasingly blurred because of the capabilities of the vehicles, the labelling by marketers, and electrification of new models.The predecessors to SUVs date back to military and low-volume models from the late 1930s, and the four-wheel drive station wagons and carryalls that began to be introduced in 1949. The 1984 [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeep_Cherokee_(XJ)]Jeep Cherokee (XJ)[/url] is considered to be the first SUV in the modern style. Some SUVs produced today use unibody construction; however, in the past, more SUVs used body-on-frame construction. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, the popularity of SUVs greatly increased, often at the expense of the popularity of large [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sedan_(automobile)]sedans[/url] and station wagons.More recently, smaller SUVs, mid-size, and crossovers have become increasingly popular. SUVs are currently the world's largest automotive segment and accounted for 45.9% of the world's passenger car market in 2021. SUVs have been criticized for a variety of environmental and safety-related reasons. They generally have poorer fuel efficiency and require more resources to manufacture than smaller vehicles, contributing more to climate change and environmental degradation. Between 2010 and 2018 SUVs were the second largest contributor to the global increase in carbon emissions worldwide. Their higher center of gravity increases their risk of rollovers. Their larger mass increases their stopping distance, reduces visibility, and increases damage to other road users in collisions. Their higher front-end profile makes them at least twice as likely to kill pedestrians they hit. Additionally, the psychological sense of security they provide influences drivers to drive less cautiously. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sport_utility_vehicleWith the above definition of SUV any vehicle that is not a pickup truck if it is enclosed, doesn't have a trunk, and is jacked up with bigger tires. If the green activists adhere to this definition of what an SUV is there will be millions of vehicles with flat tires which include HRVs, Rav4s, CRVs, Ford Escapes, Buick Encores, and many of compact and subcompact vehicles. The green movement is going to have to recruit millions of new followers and will be busy flattening millions of tires in the US and across the globe. Might be easier to protest.
  • Sckid213 I actually do agree that most Nissans are ultimately junk. (I also think many BMWs are also). I was talking challenging the 3 in terms of driving dynamics. Agree all were failures in sales.
  • THX1136 More accurately said, we are seeing exponential growth in the manufacturing capabilities in this market. Unless, of course, all those vehicles are sold with customers waiting until more a produced so they can buy. Indeed, there are certainly more EVs being purchased now than back in 2016. Is demand outstripping manufacturing? Maybe or maybe not. I sincerely don't know which is why I ask.
  • ToolGuy The page here (linked in the writeup) is ridiculously stupid https://www.tyreextinguishers.com/how-to-spot-an-suvLike, seriously stupid, e.g., A) Not sure that particular Volvo is killing the planet as quickly as some other vehicles we might choose. B) A Juke is "huge"??? C) The last picture shows a RAV4 Hybrid?
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