Uber is planning to put its self-driving car technology back on the streets in the US state of Pennsylvania after it suspended the program earlier this year. The ride-sharing company ceased operations of the program in several cities following a fatal crash in which one of its cars was involved in Tempe, Arizona in March.
An Uber spokesperson told Gizmodo that the company does not have any immediate plans to return its autonomous cars to public streets, though it has resumed on-road testing in manual mode. After releasing its safety report to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Friday, the company will now await authorisation from Pennsylvania’s Department of Transportation before resuming testing of its self-driving technology.
According to Reuters, the company said in its report that it would enable automatic braking, employ improved oversight and training for its workers, and ensure that two employees would ride in either of the front seats of its autonomous vehicles during testing. Per Reuters:
Uber said a key recommendation of an internal review after the Tempe crash was to improve the self-driving vehicles’ “overall software system design.” Uber said in its safety report released Friday the vehicle had improved “system latency,” allowing it to detect objects and actors sooner and execute safe reactions faster.
The National Transportation Safety Board, which has an ongoing investigation, said in May that Uber registered observations of the pedestrian about six seconds before impact, but the system did not determine that emergency braking was needed until 1.3 seconds before impact.
In a letter included in its report and published to Medium, the company’s Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi said the company was “deeply regretful for the crash.”
“The competitive pressure to build and market self-driving technology may lead developers to stay silent on remaining development challenges,” he added. “At Uber, we believe there is extraordinary value in sharing operational safety approaches and coordinating with others in the industry to develop methods to measure and demonstrate the progress in self-driving development.”
Uber suspended its self-driving car program earlier this year after one of its vehicles struck and killed a pedestrian, 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, while testing in autonomous driving mode.
At the time of the crash, dash cam footage showed that the backup driver in the vehicle may have been looking at her phone, despite what Uber later said was “a strict policy prohibiting mobile device usage for anyone operating our self-driving vehicles.” Police reports released by the Tempe Police Department later deemed the crash “entirely avoidable.”
The National Transportation Safety Board released a preliminary report in May that found that the vehicle’s sensors registered the woman some seconds before the accident but ignored her and failed to stop. The report said this was because an emergency braking system had been disabled to ensure a smoother drive while the car was in autonomous mode.