Uber asks Pennsylvania's permission to resume AV testing
- Uber has asked Pennsylvania’s permission to resume testing autonomous vehicles (AVs), more than seven months after it suspended tests, according to Reuters.
- Reuters reported the ride-hailing giant disclosed in a report to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that its tests would resume with two employees in the front seat, an automatic braking system enabled at all times and stricter monitoring of safety drivers.
- Uber suspended its testing in Pennsylvania after a woman was killed by one of its AVs in Tempe, AZ.
The fatal collision in Arizona that killed Elaine Herzberg spooked companies developing AVs, as well as some of the cities and states where that testing and development is underway. After the crash, Toyota paused all tests on public roads, while Boston Mayor Marty Walsh put a hold on public AV tests in the city. The company continued testing AVs in manual mode on public streets, but has now applied to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) to resume testing AVs. PennDOT confirmed to Reuters they received an application and that it is under review.
In the wake of the fatal crash, Uber appeared to shift its AV tests, shutting down its self-driving operations and AV research in Arizona, while promising to improve safety and acquiring the proper permits to test on public roads in Pittsburgh and San Francisco, its two remaining research locations. Around 200 Uber employees lost their jobs in Arizona after the research facility shuttered, many of them safety drivers.
Reuters notes that after the crash, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto had called for a full federal investigation before Uber could resume its tests on public streets, and for Uber to tighten its standards. According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which investigated the Tempe crash, Uber says it has a new approach to "handling uncertainty within the self-driving system." While PennDOT still needs to give approval for its return, it appears the fatal crash gave the company a shock and forced it to up its game, although there is still plenty of work to be done.
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