Uber Wants to Test Self-Driving Cars again After Fatality

Uber wants to start testing its self-driving cars again, seven months after one of its vehicles struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona.

The ride-sharing and aspiring self-driving car company released a safety report to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Friday. The 70-page report details Uber’s plans for its self-driving car program in Pennsylvania including safety measures to prevent crashes and fatalities.

The company shut down all of its self-driving car tests and underwent an internal review and external investigations following the crash in Tempe, Arizona.

Cars will now have two employees in the front seat to act as “back-up” drivers for the automated systems. Uber calls these employees “mission specialists.” Other safety improvements include outside monitoring of the back-up drivers, and additional screenings of applicants, according to the safety report.

“We are deeply regretful for the crash in Tempe, Arizona, this March. In the hours following, we grounded our self-driving fleets in every city they were operating,” said CEO Dara Khosrowshahi in a letter included in the report. “In the months since, we have undertaken a top-to-bottom review of ATG’s safety approaches, system development, and culture.”

An Uber vehicle in self-driving mode hit and killed 49-year-old pedestrian Elaine Herzberg in March while she was crossing a road at night. The Uber back-up driver was likely watching “The Voice” on her phone at the time of the incident, according to a police report.

The company plans to resume its self-driving program starting with manual driving in Pittsburgh, meaning drivers are in charge of the car. The idea is to collect data about the area where the same cars will be tested using automated systems. The company’s self-driving cars are all Volvo SUVs that have been customized with hardware like Lidar, sensors and cameras.

The company has filed its request to test in Pennsylvania with the state’s transportation department, which has not yet approved the application. Waymo, Google’s self-driving car division, is already testing self-driving car systems in the state.