By on November 5, 2018

uber volvo

Are two safety drivers better than one when it comes to the testing of self-driving cars? Uber Technologies feels it is, declaring as much to Pennsylvania’s road regulator. The company has filed an application with the state’s department of transportation to resume testing of autonomous Volvos, eight months after a fatal collision with a pedestrian on a darkened Arizona highway.

Uber stopped all autonomous testing in the wake of the March 18th collision, with the Arizona program dismantled for good. In Pittsburgh, the company hopes to show it learned from the safety lapses revealed in the accident investigation. These Volvos now have two fail-safes on board. Is it enough to restore the public’s trust? (Read More…)

By on May 24, 2018

The Volvo XC90 that hit Elaine Herzberg on a darkened Tempe, Arizona street was travelling 43 mph at the time of impact. Guided by a combination of cameras, radar sensors, and lidar designed to cut through the gloom, the two-ton SUV “saw” the victim 6 seconds before impact, according to a preliminary report released by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The Volvo, operated by Uber Technologies, applied the brakes 1.3 seconds after impact. However, it wasn’t autonomous software that ended up sending pressure the front and rear pistons. A human did that. (Read More…)

By on May 23, 2018

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. (Read More…)

By on May 8, 2018

Volvo Cars and Uber join forces to develop autonomous driving cars

The fatal collision between an autonomous Volvo XC90 operated by Uber Technologies and 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg in March could have been prevented, had the vehicle’s software not dismissed what its sensors saw.

That’s what two sources briefed on the issue told The Information, but Uber isn’t divulging what led to the Tempe, Arizona collision. What it will admit to, however, is the hiring of a former National Transportation Safety Board chair to examine the safety of its self-driving vehicle program. (Read More…)

By on March 27, 2018

uber volvo

Ever since last week’s  fatal accident, in which an autonomous test vehicle from Uber struck a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona, it seems like the whole world has united against the company. While the condemnation is not undeserved, there appears to be an emphasis on casting the blame in a singular direction to ensure nobody else gets caught up in the net of outrage. But it’s important to remember that, while Uber has routinely displayed a lack of interest in pursuing safety as a priority, all autonomous tech firms are being held to the same low standards imposed by both local and federal governments.

Last week, lidar supplier Velodyne said Uber’s failure was most likely on the software end as it defended the effectiveness of its hardware. Since then, Aptiv — the supplier for the Volvo XC90’s radar and camera — claimed Uber disabled the SUV’s standard crash avoidance systems to implement its own. This was followed up by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey issuing a suspension on all autonomous testing from Uber on Monday — one week after the incident and Uber’s self-imposed suspension.  (Read More…)

By on March 23, 2018

Parts supplier Velodyne Lidar Inc. has come out against Uber Technologies following the release of video footage showing one if its autonomous test vehicles fatally striking an Arizona woman this week. Marta Thoma Hall, president of Velodyne, said she was confused as to why the autonomous SUV failed to see 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg crossing the street.

Velodyne, which supplies autonomous sensing equipment to many of the world’s automotive and tech firms (including Uber), is currently cooperating with federal investigators to determine what happened in Tempe, Arizona, on Sunday evening.  (Read More…)

By on March 22, 2018

On Wednesday evening, the Tempe Police Department released a video documenting the final moments before an Uber-owned autonomous test vehicle fatally struck a woman earlier this week. The public response has been varied. Many people agree with Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir that the accident was unavoidable, while others accusing Uber of vehicular homicide. The media take has been somewhat more nuanced.

One thing is very clear, however — the average person still does not understand how this technology works in the slightest. While the darkened video (provided below) does seem to support claims that the victim appeared suddenly, other claims — that it is enough to exonerate Uber — are mistaken. The victim, Elaine Herzberg, does indeed cross directly into the path of the oncoming Volvo XC90 and is visible for a fleeting moment before the strike, but the vehicle’s lidar system should have seen her well before that. Any claims to the contrary are irresponsible.  (Read More…)

By on March 20, 2018

Uber Volvo Autonomous

Details are trickling in about the fatal incident in Tempe, Arizona, where an autonomous Uber collided with a pedestrian earlier this week. While a true assessment of the situation is ongoing, the city’s police department seems ready to absolve the company of any wrongdoing.

“The driver said it was like a flash, the person walked out in front of them,” explained Tempe police chief Sylvia Moir. “His first alert to the collision was the sound of the collision.”

This claim leaves us with more questions than answers. Research suggests autonomous driving aids lull people into complacency, dulling the senses and slowing reaction times. But most self-driving hardware, including Uber’s, uses lidar that can functionally see in pitch black conditions. Even if the driver could not see the woman crossing the street (there were streetlights), the vehicle should have picked her out clear as day. (Read More…)

By on March 19, 2018

uber volvo

In the evening hours of March 18th, a pedestrian was fatally struck by a self-driving vehicle in Tempe, Arizona. While we all knew this was an inevitability, many expected the first casualty of progress to be later in the autonomous development timeline. The vehicle in question was owned by Uber Technologies and the company has admitted it was operating autonomously at the time of the incident.

The company has since halted all testing in the Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Toronto, and greater Phoenix areas.

If you’re wondering what happened, so is Uber. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has opened an investigation into the accident and is sending a team to Tempe. Uber says it is cooperating with authorities. (Read More…)

By on February 22, 2018

UberToyotabestbuds

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi says he expects the company to have its own autonomous cars within a year but, since the company doesn’t build cars, it needs to partner with one that does. Until now, the company has been in bed with Volvo Cars, previously stating its intention to purchase 24,000 self-driving XC90 SUVs from the brand between 2019 to 2021.

However, the relationship between the two firms isn’t exclusive or binding. That means Uber can still play the field, and may have already found a friend with benefits in Japan.

On Thursday, Khosrowshahi posted a photo on Twitter of himself laughing with Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda and Executive VP Shigeki Tomoyama at the automaker’s headquarters. “Having fun with Akio-San and Tomoyama-San @ToyotaMotorCorp HQ,” he wrote. “Great discussions about growing our #autonomous partnership and lessons 4 me in building a great culture. And yep, those are Ichiro [Suzuki’s] bats.”

It seems Toyota could be the side piece Uber is looking for.  (Read More…)

By on December 14, 2017

Uber Otto

Uber Technologies Inc. received quite a bit of publicity when it purchased autonomous semi truck developer Otto in 2016. Still, it saw even more headlines when it became embroiled in a trade secrets lawsuit with Waymo. That case involved files obtained by Anthony Levandowski, former Google engineer and co-founder of the self-driving truck company, who was accused of selling confidential data to Uber (along with his business).

The bad news is that Uber now the subject of a federal investigation and knee-deep in the aforementioned litigation. But the good news is that it appears to have scored a really sweet deal on Otto.  (Read More…)

By on November 22, 2017

uber volvo

In the midst of Uber Technologies’ corporate restructuring and cultivation of a squeaky-clean new image, the ride-hailing company was apparently hiding a dark secret. Striving for transparency, the company has now confessed that hackers stole the personal information of 57 million customers and drivers in October of 2016.

The coverup, apparently conducted by the firm’s chief security officer and another staff member, involved over $100,000 in payments to the hackers in the hopes to keep them quiet. The data lost included names, email addresses, and phone numbers of around 50 million Uber riders across the globe. Another 7 million drivers were also subjected to the digital attack, with over half a million of those losing their driver’s license numbers.  (Read More…)

By on October 11, 2017

uber volvo

Uber Technologies is about to be probed to a degree that would make even the most compliant alien abductee blush. The company is now looking at a minimum of five criminal investigations from the U.S. Justice Department regarding claims of bribes, illicit software usage, unfair marketing practices, corporate espionage, questionable pricing strategies, and theft of a competitor’s intellectual property.

The ride-hailing firm is also involved in dozens of lawsuits from from customers and employees — and one very public suit with autonomous research rival Waymo. But Uber’s skirting of the law was what made it so profitable to begin with. Its take-no-prisoners attitude may have been the thing that ultimately ousted founder and CEO Travis Kalanick and severely tarnished its corporate image, but it’s also an aspect that ensure its success. Still, nobody likes learning how the sausage is made and every look behind Uber’s curtain revealed another fresh horror the press couldn’t resist mentioning — including yours truly. (Read More…)

By on August 28, 2017

Uber At Igby's In Cincy Circa April 2014

Uber Technologies has chosen Expedia’s Dara Khosrowshahi to run the global ride-hailing firm now that ex-CEO Travis Kalanick has been twice ousted from his executive role. While Uber confirmed it has named a replacement, it declined to make specific reference to Khosrowshahi, saying the board would inform employees first. Likewise, Expedia has not yet confirmed that its current CEO is leaving.

Hoping to distance itself from numerous scandals, Uber has vowed to end what many have called an unsavory corporate culture. As the company’s co-founder, Kalanick enjoyed sweeping authority on the board and has been frequently blamed for its misdeeds — primarily due to his encouraging of an unstructured, dog-eat-dog mentality among the staff. This may have something to do with the surprise choice of Khosrowshahi. As a former Iranian refugee, he is extremely critical of the Trump administration’s travel ban and has received praise in the media for his progressive politics.  (Read More…)

By on June 21, 2017

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, Image: TechCrunch/Flickr

Uber’s founder is stepping away from the company — not for the summer, as originally planned, but for good. CEO Travis Kalanick has resigned after a relentless string of controversies caused the company to lose face for all of 2017 thus far.

On Tuesday, five of Uber’s largest investors demanded that the chief executive resign. This was followed by Kalanick’s official confirmation and a posting from the company’s head of U.S. operations outlining a 180 day strategy to turn things around. While the plan made no mention of Travis’ departure, the resignation certainly seems to jibe with its objectives.

Other more official aspects of Uber’s cleverly named “180” include trials for driver tipping in several major cities and a surcharge for teenagers because everyone hates them. The ride-hailing firm is also adding Driver Injury Protection Insurance and a way to bill passengers for making them wait. None of these changes appear to be all-inclusive, however. Uber has also made it fairly vague as to when and where some of these changes will occur.  (Read More…)

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