Ride-hailing company, Uber has said that it will start testing its self-driving vehicles on the roads of Washington, D.C on Friday. Uber Technologies Inc. says that self-driving cars to be tested in Washington will not be operating in autonomous mode for now as the cars will have human drivers. According to the ride-hailing company, its aim is to collect data that will help it develop its fleet of autonomous vehicles. During the car test in Washington D.C, Uber says that digital mapping data will be collected and driving scenarios will be captured. This will help its engineers develop self-driving cars that are suited for the roads in Washington.
Speaking on the Washington test, uber says: “We hope that this initial set of manually driven data collection will lay the foundation for testing our cars in self-driving mode in Washington, DC. While we are eager to see our self-driving cars on the roads of Washington, we remain committed to driving safely on public roads and ensuring that we contribute meaningful learnings to inform our development work.”The company’s goal is for computers to operate its self-driving cars without humans sitting behind the wheel to control movement.
Uber is currently collecting road data in Dallas, San Francisco, and Toronto to support the development of self-driving cars in these cities. In Pittsburgh, the company is already operating self-driving cars in autonomous mode. However, there are safety drivers assigned to these cars during daylight hours.
Uber says that it will kick off its autonomous operations on District roads after the digital mapping in Washington is completed. There is also other technical work that needs to be done in Pittsburgh before the company can commence full operation. The self-driving cars will start with a speed limit of 25 miles per hour. The car will have a backup driver behind the wheel as well as a second safety employee sitting on the passenger’s seat. The company executives are yet to reveal when the cars will be made available to potential customers.
After one of Uber’s autonomous vehicles knocked down 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg in March 2018, the company suspended all self-driving tests until December 2018 when the case was resolved. Uber now gives more attention to safety during its car test. When it resumed its self-driving test in Pittsburgh nine months after the incident, uber began to use revised software and initiated significant new restrictions and safeguards.
The autonomous vehicle involved in the crash had only one safety driver when it struck and killed Herzberg. She was reportedly strolling with her bike across the street when the car hit her. After investigations, the Police said that the safety driver inside the car wasn’t watching the road at the time when the accident happened. The driver was instead streaming The Voice on
The National Transportation Safety Board also conducted investigations on the case and blamed Uber, the victim, the safety driver and the state of Arizona in the official report that it released. Local authorities eventually cleared Uber of any criminal wrongdoing and the company settled a lawsuit with the family of the victim for an undisclosed sum.