Uber to resume self-driving car testing in Pennsylvania

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] on Thursday resumed the limited self-driving car testing on public roads in Pittsburgh, nine months after it suspended the program after a fatal accident in Arizona.

FILE PHOTO: the Uber logo is displayed on a mobile phone, September 14, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah Mckay/File Photo

The return of the test comes days after the state of Pennsylvania granted Uber permission to resume testing.

The launch is a significant reduction of Uber’s previous self-driving activities. The company had operated its fleet in the autonomous mode on public roads at high speeds, in the dark, in areas crowded with pedestrians and with a single backup driver to the passenger seat.

This time, the cars will not work at night or in wet weather, and will not exceed a speed of 25 km per hour, the company said.

Uber resume the test with two employees in the front passenger seat is an automatic braking system at all times, and more strictly monitor the safety of workers after it said that the improvements to the vehicles’self-driving software. The company won’t will resume picking up passengers in the robot cars, a service Uber launched in 2016.

Reuters reported earlier this month that Uber planned to initially start with driving “a handful” of cars on a mile loop between two company branches in Pittsburgh, where Uber first debuted the autonomous vehicles in 2016.

Uber also said that the resume of the manual drive of the self-driving cars in Toronto and San Francisco, which will be controlled by a driver, and checked by a second person in the passenger seat. Manually managing the company helps collect data about new driving scenarios, Uber said.

Uber said that the “only aim for a return to the road for driving in these cities, in coordination with the federal, state and local governments.”

Eric Meyhofer, who heads Uber Advanced Technologies of the Group, said in a blog post that Uber has “revised and improved our test program to ensure that our cars are considerate and defensive drivers.” He added that vehicles “must comply with a series of more than 70 scenarios without any security related errors on our test track for the test on the public road.

In March, authorities in Arizona suspended Uber’s ability to test its self-driving cars after one of its cars hit and killed a woman crossing the street at night in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe, Uber’s biggest test hub. Uber also voluntarily stopped the entire autonomous car testing of the program.

The crash was the first death attributed to a self-driving car. The death prompted considerable concern about the safety about the burgeoning self-driving car industry, which is racing to vehicles in commercial use.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are investigating the fatal crash.

The NTSB said Uber has turned off, an emergency braking system in the modified Volvo test vehicle. Uber said the Volvo’s automatic emergency shutdown system is activated.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Christopher Cushing

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