Uber Lays off 100 Self-Driving Car Operators
Four months after Uber suspended all of its self-driving car operations, it's now laid-off about 100 self-driving car operators in Pittsburgh and San Francisco.
The operators, who sit in the driver's seat and monitor the self-driving vehicle's operations, were informed in a meeting yesterday that they would be losing their jobs. Uber will replace the positions with 55 new "mission specialists" that are capable of more "advanced test-track operations" and able to provide developers with more "technical feedback," Quartz reports.
When one of Uber's self-driving Uber car's hit and killed a pedestrian in Arizona last March, the company paused all operations as it reevaluated its testing methods. An Uber spokesperson told Quartz that the company "remains committed to building safe self-driving technology, and we look forward to returning to public roads in the coming months."
The autonomous vehicles were being tested on the roads in Pittsburgh, Tempe, Toronto and San Francisco. Uber completely shutdown its Arizona operation in late May after the crash. Pittsburgh was the first city where Uber tested the cars, and in November 2017, the company only required one employee to be in the self-driving cars instead of two. The drivers were supposed to keep their eyes on the road in case the automated technology malfunctioned.
The Tempe Police report regarding the incident said the crash was entirely avoidable and also indicated that the driver was live-streaming "The Voice" on her phone when the collision occurred. According to an National Transportation Safety Board report, Uber had disabled its automatic emergency braking system to avoid "erratic behavior" and drivers were expected to intervene in the event of an emergency.
Uber had been paying the now laid-off drivers ever since the March crash, even though operations were paused. Uber said the drivers are welcome to apply for the new positions. Uber wants self-driving cars back on the streets of San Francisco and Pittsburgh by summer's end and is in the process of enacting new safety methods once the cars are back on the road.