Arizona Bans Uber’s Autonomous Vehicles Following Pedestrian Death

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Uber’s autonomous vehicles are no longer welcome in Arizona.

That’s according to the state’s governor Doug Ducey.

Around 10 PM on March 18, one of Uber’s autonomous vehicles struck a woman as she crossed a road in Tempe, Arizona. She later died from her injuries at a local hospital. This was the first time an AV caused a pedestrian fatality.

Yesterday, Ducey sent a letter to Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi responding to the incident:

As governor, my top priority is public safety. Improving public safety has always been the emphasis of Arizona’s approach to autonomous vehicle testing, and my expectation is that public safety is also the top priority for all who operate this technology in the state of Arizona. The incident that took place on March 18 is an unquestionable failure to comply with this expectation…

In the best interests of the people of my state, I have directed the Arizona Department of Transportation to suspend Uber’s ability to test and operate autonomous vehicles on Arizona’s public roadways.

Immediately following the crash, Uber suspended all autonomous vehicle testing nationwide.

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But what’s remarkable is that Ducey restricted the penalty to the one company responsible: Uber. Waymo, General Motors, Mobileye, and various other AV manufacturers are also testing in the state; in the wake of the pedestrian death, Ducey could have chosen to ban all AV testing outright. Instead, he chose to allow  to continue their testing in the state.

In fact, the other companies still allowed soon be able to take those test to the next level. Less than three weeks before the Uber incident, Ducey signed an executive order giving companies permission to test their AVs without a human driver behind the wheel.

It’s still possible that other states will suspend Uber, or other AV testing. But so far, fears that the incident would hinder the maturation of autonomous vehicle technology seem to be unfounded.

The post Arizona Bans Uber’s Autonomous Vehicles Following Pedestrian Death appeared first on Futurism.


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Uber suspended from autonomous vehicle testing in Arizona following fatal crash

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Uber has been suspended from testing autonomous vehicles in the state of Arizona following last week’s fatal crash in the city of Tempe, according to the Associated Press. The accident, which occurred at night and coincided with autonomous test driver Rafaela Vasquez looking down right before the moment of impact, left pedestrian 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg dead.

It is likely the first death caused by a self-driving vehicle, and the aftermath of the event has been severe for Uber, with the company immediately suspending self-driving operations in the state amid a US National Transportation Safety Board investigation. The Tempe Police Department is also conducting an investigation, which will eventually be turned over to the Maricopa…

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Arizona governor suspends Uber’s self-driving car tests

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As the investigation into last week's fatal crash where an autonomous Uber SUV struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, AZ, the state's governor has suspended Uber's permission to test its cars there. While the company had already halted testing nati…
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An Uber Self-Driving Car Struck and Killed a Pedestrian in Arizona

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An Uber self-driving car struck and killed a woman who was crossing the street in Tempe, Arizona on Sunday night, marking what is probably the first fatality involving an autonomous vehicle and a pedestrian in the U.S. The car was in autonomous mode at the time but had a human operator behind the wheel to […]
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Self-driving Uber car strikes and kills Arizona woman, Uber halts tests

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A self-driving Uber car has struck and killed a woman in Tempe, Arizona, in what is believed to be the first known death of a pedestrian from an autonomous vehicle.

As reported by the New York Times, the Uber vehicle did have a human safety driver on board but was in autonomous mode when the collision occurred, according to a statement from Tempe police.

The company will pause its self-driving car operations in Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto. The death comes almost one year to the day since Uber halted trials following a collision – also in Tempe, Arizona – between one of its vehicles and another road user.

Uber said in a statement: “Our hearts go out to the victim’s family. We’re fully cooperating with Tempe Police and local authorities as they investigate this incident.” This was a sentiment backed up by Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who tweeted: “Some incredibly sad news out of Arizona. We’re thinking of the victim’s family as we work with local law enforcement to understand what happened.”

The first known death to be caused by a self-driving car was in May 2016, when Joshua Brown, 40, was killed whilst driving a Tesla Model S in autopilot mode. Last September, the chairman of the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said ‘operational limitations’ in the Model S played a ‘major role’ in the crash.

According to a study from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) last month, there were 10.9 fatalities from road crashes per 100,000 population in the United States in 2015. Wyoming saw the highest total with 24.9, compared with the District of Columbia on 3.4, while Arizona scored 13.1. Latest from the homepage

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Self-Driving Uber Car Kills Pedestrian in Arizona, Accident Could Have Implications for Autonomous Vehicle Testing

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An autonomous test vehicle being tested by Uber struck and killed a woman in Tempe, Arizona early Monday, marking what appears to be the first pedestrian killed by an autonomous vehicle, reports The New York Times.

The Uber vehicle in question was in an autonomous driving mode with a human safety driver at the wheel, and the woman who was struck was crossing the street outside of a crosswalk, according to local police. No other details on the accident are available at this time.

One of Apple’s autonomous test vehicles

Uber is cooperating with Tempe police and has suspended all of its self-driving vehicle tests in Tempe, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Toronto at the current time. Uber’s autonomous vehicles have previously been involved in collisions, as have vehicles from other companies like Tesla, but this is the first pedestrian-related accident that has resulted in a fatality.

This incident will likely have wide-ranging implications for all companies who are testing autonomous vehicles, including Apple, and it could potentially result in more oversight and regulation.

Apple has been testing its autonomous vehicles on public roads in California near its Cupertino headquarters since last year. Apple vehicles, which include a series of Lexus RX450h SUVs equipped with a host of sensors and cameras, have not been involved in any known accidents to date.

To date, most autonomous vehicles in California and Arizona have been using safety drivers behind the wheel who are meant to take over in the event of an emergency, but California in February lifted that rule.

Starting on April 2, companies in California that are testing self-driving vehicles will be able to deploy cars that do not have a driver behind the wheel. Arizona also allows driverless cars to be tested in the state, and Waymo has been testing autonomous driverless minivans in Arizona since November.

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Uber’s self-driving trucks have been hired to deliver freight in Arizona

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The company provided little detail on the scale of the operation.

Uber’s self-driving trucks are now delivering commercial freight in Arizona, the company announced on Tuesday. This marks the beginning of the company realizing the ambitions it laid out when acquiring self-driving trucking startup, Otto, in August 2016.

Uber’s acquisition of Otto has not been without its roadblocks, however. Most notably, there was Alphabet’s lawsuit against the company over the acquisition, something Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said, when he agreed to settle the suit, could have been handled better.

But, as Recode first reported, there was also tension within the self-driving department over which of Uber’s two autonomous efforts took priority — was it the cars or trucks? Staffers who joined Uber as part of the Otto acquisition worried trucks would take a back seat to Uber’s original driverless ambitions of building cars to be used in its ride-hail network.

While former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said he wanted to acquire Otto as a means to hire one of its co-founders, Anthony Levandowski, Levandowski’s partner Lior Ron testified during the Alphabet lawsuit that being able to develop driverless trucks was non-negotiable. In fact, he decided to sell the company to Uber, instead of staying at Alphabet or selling to Lyft, because it was one of the few places that was open to creating a driverless trucking service.

Though Uber has spent the better part of its driverless PR efforts on promoting its semi-autonomous Volvos, it appears its driverless trucking efforts are a bit further along. It’s not because the trucks are more technically capable of driving autonomously than the cars — in fact, driving autonomously on the highway as these trucks are doing is much easier than driving on city streets — it’s because Uber has actually managed to commercialize the trucks.

The company wouldn’t specify how many self-driving trucks were operating in Arizona nor how many companies it was working with or the number of shipments that have been delivered. Uber simply said its self-driving trucks had performed “thousands” of rides since the beginning of the year, a “significant portion” of which have been in autonomous mode.

So it’s impossible to tell how much money the company has made from the shipments they’ve delivered with these trucks, and it’s likely it’d be a drop in the bucket compared to how much Uber has spent and will continue to spend on developing, retrofitting and owning the trucks.

But, it is one of the first few examples of a company actually commercializing autonomous vehicles as a service. Uber isn’t alone in the space, however. In fact, trucking startup Embark beat the company to the punch and started shipping Frigidaire refrigerators between Texas and California late last year.

Uber is beginning to operate — in however small a scale — what could be an interesting new revenue stream for the company. Creating the foundation for that is not exactly an inexpensive endeavor, however.

Uber has been building out the logistics end of its trucking service, called Uber Freight, and officially launched the platform in May 2017. It essentially operates like an Uber for freight wherein the company matches commercial shippers with truck drivers looking for a job.

So, as there is for its autonomous cars with the existing ride-hail network, there is a built-in path to market for Uber’s autonomous trucks. As many industry experts have predicted, autonomous trucks may hit the road in a meaningful way much faster than passenger vehicles, largely because teaching software how to drive on the highway is much easier than teaching software how to drive on local streets where there are many more variables.

That’s why the trucks will hand control back to the driver when exiting the highway or freeway. In fact, the vehicle operator will have full discretion over when to engage and disengage the autonomous technology on the highways — just like in Teslas.

That means there’ll still be drivers in the mix.

“We are not even looking at what it would take to operate a self-driving truck on busier city streets,” Uber spokesperson Sarah Abboud told Recode. “The highly skilled truck drivers out there today are going to facilitate these short-haul routes now and in the future.”

Each of these drivers have commercial licenses but must receive extra training to be able to operate the autonomous truck. Today, the company needs three drivers for a single long haul.

The way it works is after a shipper posts a job on the Uber Freight marketplace, an assigned driver will pick up the freight from the shipper in a conventional truck. That driver then goes to a dedicated location, called a transfer hub, that Uber has set up where the shipment is transferred to a self-driving truck.

Then a trained autonomous vehicle operator drives the long haul portion of the trip to another transfer hub close to the destination. Here, a third driver picks up the trailer in a conventional truck and delivers the shipment to the final destination.

Uber currently owns the trucks but may partner with another company to bring the trucks to market in the future. While it’s a potentially significant move for Uber, the ride-hail company will have to compete with a number of major players operating in the space like Tesla and Alphabet’s self-driving arm Waymo, as well as newer players like Embark.

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Uber’s self-driving trucks are making deliveries in Arizona

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Uber announced today that its self-driving trucks have been operating in Arizona for the last couple of months. The company said it has two main transfer hubs in Sanders and Topock, but other than that, Uber is being pretty tight-lipped about the ope…
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Arizona no longer requires safety drivers in autonomous vehicles

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Arizona will now allow self-driving cars to operate in the state without a safety driver behind the wheel. Governor Doug Ducey signed an executive order this week making it legal for these vehicles to operate on their own as long as they abide by all…
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Apple Maps Transit Directions Now Available in Tucson, Arizona

Apple recently updated its Maps app to add transit directions and data for Tucson, Arizona. Transit directions have been available in Phoenix, Arizona since October of 2017, but transit information for Tucson appears to be new.

Apple Maps users in Tucson can now select public transportation routes when getting directions between two locations, with SunTran bus lines available as a transit transportation option. Amtrak routes are also available, and have been for some time.

Apple has not yet added Tucson to the website where it lists locations where transit directions are available, but it should be added in the near future.

Transit directions were first added to Apple Maps in 2015 with the launch of iOS 9. Maps initially only offered transit information in a handful of cities, but over the course of the last three years, Apple has worked to expand the feature to additional areas.

Transit information is now live in dozens of cities and countries around the world, with a full list available on Apple’s iOS 11 Feature Availability website.

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