- Uber has gotten approval from the state of Pennsylvania to resume testing autonomous vehicles (AVs) on the streets of Pittsburgh. Testing was suspended in the aftermath of a fatal crash in March involving one of the company's AVs in Tempe, AZ.
- The one-year approval allows Uber to test in Allegheny County with at least one human backup driver. There must be two drivers if the company plans to run cars at more than 25 miles per hour, according to the Associated Press.
- The Washington Post reports that Uber will resume testing today, and is looking to do the same in San Francisco and Toronto soon.
Uber’s AV push took a significant hit after the March accident, when a self-driving car failed to stop before hitting and killing a pedestrian. Uber shut down its self-driving work and research in Arizona and paused public tests while vowing to apply for permits to resume testing in Pittsburgh and San Francisco, where it was keeping AV research open. Plans for an AV taxi service were also put on hold after the crash.
A recent report from The Information, which found that an Uber employee had warned about safety concerns in the day before the crash, brought the company’s safety record back into the news. Still, the state must have been satisfied with the findings of a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation into the crash, and Uber’s subsequent promises that it would be more cautious.
Uber had to comply with new Pennsylvania requirements for its application — including disclosure of data like number of miles traveled each year and jobs added from testing — and made new safety promises. Having multiple safety drivers at higher speeds, for example, is a way to help ensure that a single driver does not get distracted, as appears to have been the case in the Arizona crash.
The approval comes as Uber’s competitors are quickly advancing their AV fleets. Waymo has opened a self-driving taxi service to select consumers in Arizona, while Daimler plans its own pilot program in San Jose, CA in the second half of 2019. General Motors’ Cruise will also soon launch its own service. The Pittsburgh tests could put Uber back on track, just ahead of its planned public offering next year.