Uber shutting down self-driving operations in Arizona after fatal crash in March

Uber shutting down self-driving operations in Arizona after fatal crash

Ryan Randazzo, The Republic | azcentral.com Published 9:06 a.m. MT May 23, 2018 | Updated 11:26 a.m. MT May 23, 2018

Tempe police have released two angles of a fatal crash involving a self-driving Uber SUV and a pedestrian on March 18, 2018.

Uber is shutting down its self-driving car tests in Arizona, where one of the cars was involved in a fatal crash with a pedestrian in March, the company said Wednesday.

The company notified about 300 Arizona workers in the self-driving program that they were being terminated just before 9 a.m. Wednesday. The shutdown should take several weeks.

Test drivers for the autonomous cars have not worked since the accident in Tempe, but Uber said they continued to be paid. The company's self-driving trucks have also been shelved since the accident.

Uber plans to restart testing self-driving cars in Pittsburgh once federal investigators conclude their inquiry into the Tempe crash. The company also said it is having discussions with California leaders to restart testing.

Uber has engineering hubs in Pittsburgh and San Francisco, and the company said it is easier to test vehicles near those workers. Engineers from those hubs frequently traveled to Arizona to work on the testing project here.

“We’re committed to self-driving technology, and we look forward to returning to public roads in the near future," Uber said in a prepared statement. "In the meantime, we remain focused on our top-to-bottom safety review, having brought on former NTSB Chair Christopher Hart to advise us on our overall safety culture.”

Uber's traditional rider service will continue to operate in Arizona. The company has an operations center in downtown Phoenix and employs about 550 people in the state, not counting contract drivers, and plans to hire about 70 more, the company said.

Uber program relocated following Calif. Conflict

Uber brought its test program to Arizona in December 2016 following a conflict with California.

The company said at the time that a 2015 executive order from Gov. Doug Ducey was key to its decision to move here, and Ducey made the announcement when the vehicles arrived in the state.

"While California puts the brakes on innovation and change with more bureaucracy and more regulation, Arizona is paving the way for new technology and new businesses," Ducey said at the time.

After the fatal crash, Uber voluntarily pulled its self-driving cars from the roads, but the governor also ordered them to stay off until the crash investigation was complete.

"The governor's focus has always been on what's best for Arizonans and for public safety, not for any one company," Ducey's spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said Wednesday.

He added that the suspension remains in place for the company's Arizona tests.

The bad news of a tech operation leaving the state broke at an opportune time for the governor, as the NFL announced Wednesday morning that Arizona would host the 2023 Super Bowl.


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