Uber has been struggling for some time to figure out how to make its self-driving cars safe on the road. After the crash in Arizona which resulted in the death of a pedestrian, Uber seems to have decided to roll back its self-driving vehicle operations:
Uber has laid off its self-driving car operators in Pittsburgh as the company rethinks its autonomous vehicle strategy following a fatal crash in Tempe, Arizona, earlier this year.
The company held a meeting earlier today (July 11) to inform about 100 autonomous vehicle operators—people who monitor its self-driving cars—that their jobs were being terminated, a source close to the situation told Quartz. Uber said it was eliminating the position of autonomous vehicle operator, and that operators were free to apply to other roles at the company, the source said.
Uber confirmed it laid off about 100 autonomous vehicle operators in Pittsburgh and eliminated the position. The company plans to replace these jobs with about 55 “mission specialists”—specialists who are trained in both on-road and more advanced test-track operations, and who are expected to provide more technical feedback to self-driving car developers. Uber said affected operators could apply for these positions.
After it shuttered operations in Arizona, Uber said it hoped to resume self-driving car operations in Pittsburgh this summer. That statement drew a strong rebuke from Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto, who claimedthe company failed to inform him of its plans, forcing him to learn about it “through social media reports.” Uber contended that it had “reached out to relevant officials” at every step.
I expect Uber to further de-emphasize self-driving cars in the coming years. It doesn’t need the risks and the headaches when the technology hasn’t been perfected yet.