Uber cleared to restart self-driving car testing in California

Uber is the latest company that California has granted a permit to test self-driving vehicles — with a trained human driver still present. 

Reuters reports that California’s Department of Motor Vehicles issued Uber the permit on Wednesday, February 5. The permit was issued to Uber Advanced Technologies Group (ATG), which is tasked with developing successful and safe self-driving technology for the company. 

Sarah Abboud

“Before beginning any self-driving vehicle testing on our test track or public roads, we establish an operational design domain (ODD), which captures the specific conditions under which our self-driving system will operate, including where and when,” Uber ATG’s website says. “At Uber ATG, we are committed to testing our system in a safe and responsible way. Defining and operating under a predetermined ODD that aligns our daily operational efforts with our system’s capabilities is critical to this effort.”

Uber told Digital Trends that the testing would start in San Francisco at a date yet to be determined but in the near future. 

“San Francisco is a great city to gather key learnings for self-driving technology given its complex and ever-changing environment. While we do not have an update as to exactly when we’ll resume autonomous testing, receiving our testing permit through the California DMV is a critical step towards that end in Uber’s home city,” an Uber spokesperson said. 

Uber’s approval to start testing again marks the latest in a series of small steps toward the restart of full testing since its operation was suspended in March 2018 when one of its cars killed 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg in Tempe, Arizona. The vehicle had a safety driver behind the wheel, but both the technology and the safety driver failed to spot Herzberg as she crossed a street at night.

Uber ATG was also given permission to start testing again in other cities like Dallas, Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, and Toronto.

Even though Uber reportedly lost $8.5 billion last year, revamping its self-driving testing in even more cities could accelerate the company as not only one of the top rideshares, but as one of the companies at the forefront of autonomous driving technologies. 

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