Uber Approved to Start Self-Driving Car Program in Pennsylvania Following Fatal Crash
Uber has been approved to restart its self-driving car operations on public roads in the state of Pennsylvania, the ride-hailing company confirmed Wednesday.
The autonomous vehicle test program was suspended in March after one of the cars crashed into and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. Following the fatal accident, Uber suspended its self-driving car test operations in four cities, including San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Phoenix (which included suburban areas like Tempe).
Now, Pennsylvania's Department of Transportation has approved Uber's request to start up its self-driving operations once again. The app-based car service released a voluntary safety report on the program to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in November. That report stated that the self-driving car program underwent a safety overhaul and now includes features such as requiring two backup employees to be in each autonomous vehicle during testing, new automatic braking and stricter monitoring for the safety drivers, the Verge reports.
In the fatal accident last March, dash cam video revealed that the backup driver was streaming a TV show on a tablet device when her eyes should have been on the road.
Another new key component of the self-driving cars, Uber says in the report, is “overall software system design” that has improved “system latency. We are now able to detect objects and actors sooner and execute safe reactions faster,” the report says. Initial investigations of the deadly Tempe crash indicated that the car's sensors and software system malfunctioned and did not properly detect the pedestrian, 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, as she crossed the street outside of a crosswalk at night.
Following the accident, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey suspended Uber’s ability to test its self-driving cars in the state. The company also intentionally let its California self-driving test permit lapse, "with the understanding that our self-driving vehicles would not operate on public roads in the immediate future," it said at the time.
Uber confirmed that it has received its letter of authorization from the Pennsylvania DOT, but it does not yet have cars back on the road in self-driving mode.