An Uber self-driving car was involved in an unfortunate accident earlier this week which resulted in the death of a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. It was the first known accident involving an autonomous car that caused the death of a person on the road. A new report from The New York Times reveals that Uber’s self-driving car had some problems well before the fatal crash.
Uber has been working hard to achieve its goal of providing autonomous ride-hailing services to the public by the end of this year. However, the report mentions that its cars were finding it difficult to drive through construction zones and alongside tall vehicles. The safety drivers behind the wheel “had to intervene far more frequently” than drivers of other self-driving projects.
The scribe obtained 100 pages of Uber documents which revealed that as of March 2018, Uber was finding it difficult to meet its target of 13 miles per intervention from the safety driver in Arizona.
The report also mentions that some employees had expressed safety concerns when Uber decided to move to a single human operator inside the car. They were worried that solo drivers might find it harder to remain alert after hours of monotonous driving. Uber did delay the start of its single-driver initiative to provide more training and ensure that drivers were comfortable in their new role.
Nonetheless, there were issues related to operators either being distracted or even falling asleep at the wheel. The crash video released by Tempe police did show the safety driver taking eyes off the road in the moments leading up to the accident and it’s unclear what caused the distraction.
It’s also unclear what changes Uber will make to its self-driving plans after the investigation is wrapped up. The company has currently grounded its entire self-driving fleet as it cooperates with the authorities on this matter.