Autonomous vehicles (or AVs) moved from a startup prototype to an everyday reality in 2018, driving a new conversation about this technology.
The conversations started with Uber’s fatal crash that killed a pedestrian last March. The industry pointed fingers, blaming the lack of transparency around AV testing. But, in the end, experts determined that Uber was to blame. The bottom line, Uber took what turned out to be dangerous shortcuts in the company’s haste to win the self-driving war.
In addition to removing the existing safety technology onboard, Uber had blunted the software’s ability to stop the car when it spotted an object in the road. Later, it was revealed that the company had recently changed their policy from requiring two human drivers in the car to only requiring one. Shortly afterward, the safety driver was found to be streaming a show at the time of impact.
In the aftermath, Uber’s self-driving program was left hanging in the balance, while the rest of the industry continued to debate the speed in which these vehicles were being rushed to market.
Uber’s incoming CEO Dara Khosrowshahi tried to refocus the company’s efforts around a new safety campaign. But the damage was done. Uber’s driverless programs were shuttered in Arizona and Pittsburgh, and its permit left to expire in California.
The public reaction to the incident could delay autonomous development as a whole, or at least could affect Uber’s future self-driving efforts. Advocacy groups like Consumer Watchdog have already called for a national moratorium on self-driving tests.
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