Uber Technologies Inc. seems to have been rather unfortunate lately. This time the company’s self-driving car got involved into a bad accident on Arizona roads, which can make it rather hard for the company to win back its positions and reputation in the industry.
The social networks became a platform where the first pictures and information of the accident involving an autonomous Volvo SUV equipped with Uber’s hardware appeared. The company had to confirm the photo was real and suspended testing its driverless vehicles in the state initiating its own investigation.
As a Tempe police spokesman stated, although the incident was quite serious, it was not Volvo’s fault and nobody was injured. The second car was responsible for what happened, according to investigators. Meanwhile, Uber car was actually controlled by a person sitting in a driver’s seat, but it was yet unclear whether this person controlled the autonomous car at that moment, with no passengers.
Tempe became the second city after Pittsburgh, then followed by San Francisco, where Uber launched its testing program offering driverless rides to local customers. But the company was accused by its competitor Google’s Waymo of stealing some valuable technical details and design of expensive hardware elements. However, Uber denies any claims calling them “baseless.”
The current accident involving the Uber self-driving car looks far more dangerous on photos with the autonomous Volvo SUV laying on its side compared to those minor incidents registered with Waymo’s driverless cars. The latter have demonstrated quite unbelievable results having passed over 2,000,000 miles with such incidents as driving into other cars on roads with heavy traffic.
Moreover, Uber is currently being accused of using a special program Greyball that helped such autonomous vehicles avoid fees.
Uber Resumes Testing 3 Days Later
However, on March 27 Uber resumed its driverless program on Tempe streets, as well as in other two cities where self-driving Uber vehicles have been present. The corporate investigation approved the car was in autonomous mode when the collision happened. Fortunately, that incident didn’t hurt anyone. Safety measures of autonomous driving were followed by a driver of the Volvo and a corporate engineer who accompanied the driver.
To date no serious or any other crashes have been reported in Pittsburgh regarding Uber’s driverless vehicles, according to the local police department. Of course, there is no obvious reason to think that self-driving cars will avoid any future accidents, but the industry experts are rather positive in their forecasts saying that the more improved the technology will be – the safer it will be to ride a self-driving vehicle. It means autonomous driving can become a safer alternative to human drivers who often behave rather carelessly. The statistics data state around 23 thousand traffic deaths every week around the globe, which is a huge number. Some even say that it is just an illusion thinking that a human in the driver’s seat is your guarantee of the safe drive and driverless technologies can be far more secure even today.
Tempe Police Report
The Tempe Police Department published its investigation report on March 29, where all previously declared statements were confirmed. As Uber’s fleet of self-driving vehicles got back on Arizona’s roads on Monday, the police spokesperson gave more clear details on what happened on Friday, March 24.
Uber’s engineer who was in the car when the crash happened stated that the self-driving vehicle wasn’t moving at a speed over the limit of 40 mph. The second participant of the accident, the Honda car, actually caused this collision and made the self-driving vehicle turn on its side. Even though there were witnesses who stated that it wasn’t Honda’s fault, none of them accused the Uber car of this incident either.
However, there are still some questions remaining in this situation. It is still unclear whether the autonomous SUV scanned the yellow light and initiated the maneuver. There was an ambiguous incident in California a year ago that involved Uber’s autonomous vehicle. Back then the car continued to drive despite of a red light. The reports also say about several other cases when the Uber driverless technology could not recognize the right traffic light for some reason.
But even though Uber is currently having some difficulties in dealing with regulations, great work on improving the self-driving technology is still going on. And such road incidents in testing mode can actually be a good incentive for the company to enhance its software even more.