Uber slowly resumes self-driving car tests nine months after deadly accident

autonomous driving fatalities get the attention of auto insurance companies uber arizona1

Uber suspended its self-driving car program in March 2018 following a fatal accident involving one of its prototypes. Nine months later, the company has announced that it’s ready to resume testing its autonomous technology on public roads, and it pledged to put a bigger focus on safety than ever before.

“Over the past nine months, we’ve made safety core to everything we do,” said Eric Meyhofer, the head of Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group, in a statement sent to Bloomberg.

The ridesharing giant will resume testing by deploying one or two prototypes on the streets of Pittsburgh. It plans to operate its autonomous cars along a mile-long route between two of its offices in Pittsburgh, with the vehicles traveling no faster than the posted speed limit of 25 mph. The cars will also stay off the road in wet weather and at night. The company will also increase the number of safety personnel inside the vehicle from one to two.

Before the March accident in which an Uber test car struck and killed 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg as she crossed the street in Tempe, Arizona, Uber was operating its self-driving program in four cities — three in the U.S. and one in Canada. The autonomous cars drove at speeds of up to 55 mph, and also operated at night and in various weather conditions.

When Herzberg was struck, the Uber car was traveling at 39 mph at night and its technology failed to spot her in the road ahead. The safety driver is believed to have been streaming a TV show on her phone. Local police described the incident as “entirely avoidable.” It marked a significant setback for the firm, and for self-driving car technology in general.

To enable the restart of its trial program, the San Francisco-based company had to get permission from Pennsylvania state officials, as well as submit a voluntary report to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration detailing all of the safety improvements that it has incorporated into its autonomous car technology. In July, Pennsylvania’s Department of Transportation (DOT) tightened up its guidelines for autonomous car testing, resulting in companies being told to submit more detailed information about their operations on the state’s roads.

Uber will need to play catch-up. As the company worked to get its autonomous car program back on track, competitor Waymo scored a big win in December 2018 when it became the first company in the U.S. to launch a full-fledged robot taxi service in and around Phoenix.

Updated December 20, 2018: Added information about Uber resuming testing.

Outdoors

Inside the high-tech lab that makes the world’s safest bike helmet

Trek and Bontrager have taken the wraps off of a new cycling helmet that uses WaveCel technology to dramatically reduce head injuries by dispersing the impact in a way that is 48 times safer than current helmets.
Cars

Tesla will have ‘autonomous robotaxis’ in 2020, Elon Musk says

Tesla will deploy self-driving cars in a "robotaxi" service in 2020, CEO Elon Musk said at the automaker's Autonomy Investor Day. Musk has promised autonomous Tesla electric cars before, but will he finally deliver this time?
Cars

Apple’s interest in self-driving cars reported to be revving up

A new report suggests that Apple is in talks with a number of suppliers to purchase lidar sensors, an essential tool for self-driving cars. The news is once again spiking rumors that Apple might be building vehicles.
Cars

Toyota leads $1 billion investment in Uber’s self-driving tech division

In a move that has been a long time coming, Uber filed its S-1 documents, which sets the stage for the company to finally go public with an initial public offering. The company could be valued at more than $100 billion.
Cars

Ford is keeping hackers out of its cars by putting key fobs to sleep

Ford found a way to stop thieves who try to hack their way into a car by duplicating its key fob. It developed a smart key fob that puts itself to sleep when it's idle for at least 40 seconds. It automatically wakes up when someone picks it…
Cars

This vintage Ford Bronco off-roader has a modern electric powertrain

Zero Labs took a classic Ford Bronco and replaced its gasoline engine with an electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack. So you get the style and off-road capability of a Bronco, but with zero emissions.
Product Review

BMW’s smallest M car is its biggest performance statement

The BMW M2 Competition is frighteningly quick in a straight line, and its short wheelbase lends itself to some hilarious power slides, but it’s the curvy roads and tight tracks where this coupe comes alive.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Earth Day, indoor container farming, robot submarines

Today on Digital Trends Live, we discuss how technology intersects with Earth Day, a new Tim Cook biography, indoor container farming, robot spy submarines, A.I. death metal, and more.
Cars

Startup Smartcar accuses bigger rival Otonomo of stealing intellectual property

California-based startup Smartcar claims its intellectual property was stolen by a much bigger (and better-funded) rival named Otonomo. Otonomo hasn't given its side of the story yet.
Cars

2020 Nissan 370Z Special Edition celebrates 50 Years of the Z car

Nissan is celebrating 50 years of its iconic "Z car" with a special edition of the 2020 370Z. The 50th-anniversary model is dressed to look like a 1970s race car, but remains technically unchanged.
Cars

Tesla rushes investigators to China to figure out why a parked Model S exploded

Tesla has sent a team of in-house investigators to Shanghai to determine why an early Model S suddenly exploded and caught fire. The electric sedan was parked before the fire started, and the cause of the blaze remains unknown.
Cars

Google Maps now shows EV owners which charging stations are occupied

Google has just beefed up its Maps app with extra data to help EV owners find the nearest charging station. Drivers can also find out about the number and types of ports available, and whether they're occupied.
Cars

Keep your driving record squeaky clean with these top-flight radar detectors

Nobody likes getting a speeding ticket, but these gadgets can help. Check out our picks for the best radar detectors on the market, from the likes of Valentine One, Escort, and Beltronics.
Buying Guides

The best hatchbacks for 2019 are small in size and big on tech

The hatchback segment isn't huge, but there are still plenty of good options to choose from. Here, we've rounded up the best hatchbacks available in America, whether you're a fan of efficiency or looks.