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Uber Plans to Put Self-Driving Cars Back on the Road in a Scaled-Down Launch
By admin December 7, 2018

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Eight months after one of Uber’s self-driving cars hit and killed a pedestrian, the ride-sharing company is on the verge of putting its vehicles back on the road in a more reduced pilot of earlier efforts.

Before the accident, Uber was driving its autonomous vehicles on public roads in four cities at speeds up to 55mph. Starting within a few weeks, Uber plans to run vehicles on a mile loop between its two company offices in Pittsburgh. They now will only operate in the day time, in dry conditions, and will not exceed 25mph.

But even with lowered expectations, Uber’s autonomous car technology has faced considerable issues. The cars react more slowly than human drivers and have struggled to pass track validation tests, which is the last step before being able to return to city streets.

The scaled-down street testing would be a respectful return for a cutting-edge effort that Uber execs once considered to be the key to the company’s prosperity. Although Uber is rapidly growing and is expected to make its debut on Wall Street next year, it is wildly unprofitable. The company lost $1 billion in its most recent quarter.

Self-driving cars were supposed to help cut Uber’s losses by eliminating the need for drivers, which are the company’s biggest expense. In this case, expectations were greater than the technological capacity.

After the crash, Uber vowed to keep its autonomous cars off public roads until they could ensure complete safety. The company moved forward and issued a 70-page safety report and added more rigorous testing on closed tracks and simulations. But as recently as a few weeks ago, the company’s autonomous vehicle unit was experiencing track testing failures on different versions of its software.

Government guidelines for autonomous vehicle testing are lagging. Under the rules the company set for itself, the testing vehicles would always have at least two people driving and monitoring their systems and the braking system would be turned on. Uber also received a vote of confidence in August with a $500 million investment from Toyota with a plan to install Uber’s self-driving system in a handful of Toyota minivans. Putting their best foot forward, Uber is hoping to change the ride-sharing service forever, whether or not it’ll be successful, we’ll just have to wait and see.

 

For Further Reading:

Uber puts self-driving cars back on the road in scaled-down test

Uber plans smaller, more cautious self-driving car launch

Uber self-driving cars: everything you need to know


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