The future of Uber’s self-driving cars is up in the air after several months of scrutiny and losses reported by the rideshare company and some of the better rideshare insurance companies.
In the first half of 2018, Uber reportedly lost $1.27 billion. A majority of these loses were due to driver payments. Self-driving cars were once thought to be a perfect solution in order for Uber to be able to turn profits.
In 2015, Uber opened the Advanced Technology Center in Pittsburgh which employs robotics researchers. In under a year, the center unveiled their first self-driving car. However, the center is costly and adds to the company’s yearly deficit without providing a clear cut solution to the company’s margin problems, especially when adding in
Uber’s self-driving technology allows the company to pick out routes it considers safest for self-driving cars. Since Uber has a vast amount of drivers, it has the resources to take it’s time through this whole process without losing out on customers.
A fatal accident involving a self-driving Uber and a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona highlights the many challenges this new technology still faces. A preliminary report concluded that the self-driving Uber saw the pedestrian six seconds before the fatal collision occurred but failed to stop because the emergency brakes were disabled.
The emergency brakes are disabled in self-driving Ubers to prevent unpredictable behavior and relies on the driver to interfere. The system, however, does not notify the driver that he or she may need to use the emergency brakes. Since the accident, the self-driving program was suspended and restarted earlier this summer.
It is unlikely that Uber will be found at fault for the accident because the pedestrian failed to cross the street at the crosswalk.
In July, Uber shut down its autonomous trucking program less than two years after Otto acquisition in an effort to focus solely on self-driving cars. Uber Freight will continue and is still considered to be the most promising of the company’s self-driving projects.
While Uber’s run with self-driving technology can be considered rocky, the company is not giving up just yet. It is important to educate the public on the benefits of self-driving technology and not be influenced by one tragic accident.