Uber Launches First Self-Driving Vehicles Since Fatal Pedestrian Crash


August 10, 2018

PITTSBURGH, PA. – July 25, 2018 (kjzz.com) According to an online news story from kjzz.com, Uber has now restarted its self-driving vehicle testing program. The company suspended the program almost five months ago after a fatal pedestrian crash in Arzona.

In March 2018, a self-driving Uber vehicle struck and killed 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg while she was walking her bicycle across a Tempe, Arizona, road. Footage obtained from the Uber vehicle shows the human safety driver inside, 44-year-old Rafaela Vasquez, was looking down at the time and did not see Herzberg until it was too late. 

Following Herzberg’s death, Uber halted its self-driving vehicle testing. But on July 25, the company placed its first set of self-driving vehicles back on the road, effectively relaunching its autonomous vehicle testing program in Pittsburgh. A spokesperson for Uber said the company had released a handful of cars that day, all of which would run in manual mode with two human safety drivers, now called “mission specialists,” inside at all times.

An internal team reportedly reviewed Uber’s operations after the Arizona crash, and Uber installed sixteen new features to improve safety in its autonomous vehicles. One such improvement is inclusion of emergency braking systems designed to prevent or mitigate accidents. In its investigation into the Arizona crash, the federal government found that the automatic braking system in the Uber vehicle involved in the collision had been disabled in order to reduce erratic braking for a more comfortable ride. 

“Building best-in-class self-driving technology will take time, and safety is our priority every step of the way,” Eric Meyhofer, head of Uber Advanced Technologies Group, posted in an online blog entry that day of the relaunch. 

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