Uber reportedly reduced the number of sensors on its autonomous cars

Oscar Cross
March 30, 2018

A tranche of emails published through a document request from The Guardian reveals that governor Doug Ducey went to some lengths to encourage Uber to move its program from California to Arizona, including allowing it to test self-driving cars in Phoenix back in August 2016 without letting the public know. "Given this, we chose to not reapply for a California permit with the understanding that our self-driving vehicles would not operate in the state in the immediate future".

Uber tested about 29 vehicles in California at one time, whereas it gathered data from roughly 200 vehicles across Arizona, California, Ontario, and Pennsylvania.

The chief executive of self-driving rival Alphabet Inc.'s Waymo said his company's vehicles would have avoided the 18 March accident.

The DMV will soon begin evaluating permit applications for companies interested in launching self-piloted auto tests, although the likelihood of approval appears to be slim.

Uber said that concerns about having to file disengagement reports were not a factor in its California withdrawal.

Nvidia has also halted testing of AVs until more is known about the cause of the Uber collision. The new Uber driverless vehicle is armed with only one roof-mounted lidar sensor compared with seven lidar units on the older Ford Fusion models Uber employed, according to diagrams prepared by Uber.

Ducey lured Uber with the promise of hassle-free test driving.

The death of a pedestrian in Arizona by an Uber self-driving auto may have been the result of a blind spot caused by the use of a single LIDAR sensor on the roof.

The customer was driving through London last week when he caught the Uber driver watching a film on his phone
The customer was driving through London last week when he caught the Uber driver watching a film on his phone

The departure comes a week after an Uber autonomous vehicle struck and killed a woman crossing a street in Arizona. The incident marked the first pedestrian death stemming from a traffic accident involving a self-driving vehicle and while preliminary results of Tempe PD's investigation suggest the autonomous Uber auto wasn't at fault for the accident, the firm promptly suspended all of its driverless technology trials throughout the United States. A video released by police shows the moments leading up to the crash. In a tweet, he said he was "very disturbed" by the crash video. The governor of Arizona Monday blocked Uber's ability to resume testing in the state.

Uber has said it is cooperating in the investigation and has pulled all of its autonomous cars off the road, but has provided no further details about the crash. While the system will work only on roads that are fully autonomous, "the communications and calculations we've developed will enable autonomous cars to zip through intersections at full speed or with just a minor slow-down". Another five state governors have issued executive orders, including Arizona, according to the NCSL. The comments were a reversal of the state's earlier policies beckoning self-driving auto developers. I'll bet Uber already has a pretty good idea of what happened, but so far they aren't telling.

"We continue to help investigators in any way we can, " the company said in a press statement.

Uber has marked that it has suspended its autonomous vehicle testing operations indefinitely in Arizona, California, and Toronto.

Uber's reputation had been marred by various scandals including toxic workplace culture and data breaches.

Uber declined to comment on the decision Wednesday.

It might also want to consider using non-Uber navigation apps which tend to be more accurate.

The New York-listed Baidu, which is betting its future growth on AI technologies such as autonomous driving and voice recognition, is pushing ahead with its driverless vehicle strategy despite a fatal accident in the U.S. earlier this month that has cast a shadow over the entire industry. The vehicle struck a highway barrier, caught fire, and was later hit by another in Northern California.

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