Uber’s self-driving cars return to Pittsburgh for the first time since fatality
New safeguards, that are expected to improve vehicle fleet safety and performance, are being manually trialled in Uber’s self-driving cars.
Uber trials have returned to Pittsburgh for the first time since the death of Elaine Herzberg, which resulted in the permanent closure of all Arizona operations. However, this new self-driving programme is very different from the previous project.
For the foreseeable future, the cars will remain in manual mode, driven by people. Uber will use the miles travelled manually to collect real-time data from the roads and develop their mapping efforts. Although useful for Uber’s research, this is first and foremost a safety precaution.
Uber’s Head of Advanced Technologies, Eric Meyhofer, said in a blog post: “After the tragedy in Tempe, we have launched a top-to-bottom review of our self-driving programme, with a focus on safety.”
The new programme has two ‘mission specialists’ situated in the front and passenger seats; an extra person in comparison to the trials before the crash.
Before test drivers operate an autonomous car, there is now a driving course that has to be completed, which covers basics, distracted driving and extensive training. The front-facing tablet in the car has also been amended with fewer features in the interface to reduce the chance of distractions.
Meyhofer said: “While we are eager to resume testing of our self-driving system, we see manual driving as an important first step in piloting these safeguards. As we look to get back on the road in self-driving mode in the coming months, manually driven miles will still improve our operations.
“Self-driving technology has the potential to change how we move, reinvent how we design cities and save lives. We recognise our responsibility to contribute to this future and the essential role that safety plays as we move forward. We also recognise that transparency is critical to building trust, which is why we’ll continue to share our progress as we work towards getting back on the road in self-driving mode.”