Uber Technologies has suspended testing of self-driving vehicles in Arizona and Pittsburgh, following a car crash in Tempe on Saturday. The crash involved a human driver and one of the company’s Volvo XC90s, which flipped over as a result.
Local police authorities say the semi-autonomous car didn’t cause the accident, and that it was the other driver who failed to yield.
The incident is just the latest scandal to hit the company in recent times. The ride-hailing startup has been involved in everything as of late, including sexual harassment allegations, intellectual property lawsuits, and the mass resignation of executives and employees.
The police said Uber’s car was not at fault
While many are pointing at the obvious, detrimental result for Uber, they are failing to see the bigger picture after this incident: crashes like this are precisely why most of the world’s top automakers and tech giants are developing the self-driving technology.
The San Francisco-based startup had a rough beginning when it announced autonomous vehicles would roam the streets of some states of the country. Pittsburgh tests paved the way for later deployments in California and Arizona.
Trials in the company’s hometown of San Francisco lasted only a week before the DMV stopped their operations for not meeting state regulations. Uber shipped those 16 Volvo units to Arizona, where they began driving people in Tempe last month.
Tempe Police determined the collision was a result of the human driver not yielding to make way for Uber’s Volvo XC90. The autonomous SUV had the right of way, and it flipped over upon impact with the incoming car, driven by an inattentive man.
WIRED argues that similar incidents killed up to 40,000 people in the United States alone in 2016. Manned car crashes claim the lives of more than 1 million passengers and drivers every year. These numbers would drastically go down if coordinated computers were behind the wheel.
Still, the company is deep in controversy
Halting their self-driving test program is not the only thing that should worry Uber right now. While the project presented little yet steady progress, there are more worrying issues at the core of the company that they should try to resolve first.
CEO Travis Kalanick has been in the spotlight over the last few weeks due to several in-house controversies. Female employees at the firm have denounced misogynistic approaches from some co-workers, including top-level executives.
Speaking of executives, more and more high-ranking officials at the company seem to be abandoning the ship. Uber’s number two Jeff Jones stepped down from his position as COO last week, followed by Brian McClendon, VP of mapping and business.
Google’s Waymo is suing Uber and its autonomous truck arm Otto for allegedly stealing their proprietary LIDAR system. The New York Times also reported the company was evading government regulations using a tool called Greyball on its self-driving system.