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NTSB investigators examine a self-driving Uber vehicle involved in a fatal accident in Tempe
Image: NTSB investigators examine a self-driving Uber vehicle involved in a fatal accident in Tempe. National Transportation Safety Board/Handout via REUTERS

Uber’s Self-Driving Car Tests Grind to a Halt in Arizona

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Image: NTSB investigators examine a self-driving Uber vehicle involved in a fatal accident in Tempe. National Transportation Safety Board/Handout via REUTERS

The governor of Arizona in the United States suspended Uber’s permission to test self-driving vehicles. The company is no longer permitted to use public roads to test the automated cars.

Response to a Fatality

The governor suspended the tests in response to a collision between a self-driving car and a pedestrian. The vehicle struck the 49 year old, who was killed as a result of the crash.

This decision dealt a blow to Uber Technologies Inc. The ride-hailing service had been working toward the use of self-driving cars for its future successes. The driverless vehicles were meant to help it to stand out among its rivals. That said, it has fallen notably behind other large players in the self-driving car arena, including Waymo (owned by Alphabet Inc.).

The Importance of Arizona

Arizona has been a central location for Uber’s self-driving vehicle tests. In fact, about half of its 200 total driverless cars are located there, as are hundreds of employees.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey sent a letter to Uber’s CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi. The letter was also shared among various media outlets. Within it, Ducey explained that he had seen a police video of the self-driving vehicle crash. He called it “disturbing and alarming, and it raises many questions about the ability of Uber to continue testing in Arizona.”

Safety regulators are working with police to investigate the crash which led to the fatality on March 18. The collision occurred when a woman crossed a four-lane road at night. She was struck and killed by a self-driving SUV owned by Uber. The accident placed the spotlight on the need for clearer driverless vehicle safety standards.

“An Unquestionable Failure”

Within Ducey’s letter, he called the crash “an unquestionable failure.” He added that “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.”

The letter represents a very different perspective regarding the driverless vehicle tests when compared to Ducey’s tone in 2016. At that time, the governor welcomed Uber to the state, having said that “Arizona welcomes Uber self-driving cars with open arms and wide open roads.”

Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Alvexo on the matter.