Uber is planning to get its self-driving cars back on the road.
A small number of autonomous vehicles are planned to resume on-road testing in Pittsburgh, once approved by the state.
“While we are working to get back on public roads, we would never compromise on safety in order to get there,” an Uber spokesperson told me. “As we have said many times before, our return is predicated on successfully passing our rigorous track tests and having our letter of authorization from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation in hand.”
Uber halted its public trials following a traffic fatality involving an Uber self-driving car running in fully autonomous mode in Arizona. Since that time, Uber and Volvo have integrated the emergency backing system technologies of Uber and those in the Volvo vehicles used in the trials.
Companies involved in developing autonomous vehicles are becoming keenly aware of potential safety issues, in addition to the public perceptions of them.
For example, Ford recently created a self-driving safety report suggesting that the central challenge in developing self-driving cars is not the technology but rather the trust in safety, reliability and experience enabled by the technology. It delivered the report, titled “A Matter of Trust,” to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Alphabet’s Waymo was recently reported to have added safety drivers into its self-driving vehicles trials in Arizona.
Uber also created a set of guidelines in a lengthy document titled “A Principled Approach to Safety,” which includes an entire section on track verification testing. More than 70 individual tests in the verification process have to be passed before getting on the road.
“We’re committed to self-driving technology, and we look forward to returning to public roads in the near future,” the Uber spokesman said. “In the meantime, we remain focused on our top-to-bottom safety review, having brought on former NTSB Chair Christopher Hart to advise us on our overall safety culture.”
Uber closed its self-driving truck business in July to center its autonomous development efforts on cars, as we wrote about here at the time ("Uber Shutters Self-Driving Truck Business").
There’s plenty going on in and around the world autonomous vehicles. In August, Toyota teamed with Uber to jointly create autonomous vehicles to be used by Uber’s ride-sharing service, including an investment of $500 million in Uber by Toyota. Softbank recently invested more than $2 billion in GM Cruise Holdings, which is driving GMs autonomous vehicles efforts, and Apple received a permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles to test autonomous vehicles.