Driverless Uber vehicles were back on the streets of San Francisco this morning, the company confirmed to Reuters, after an exceedingly brief hiatus here and in other the testing cities of Tempe and Pittsburgh. The break was necessitated, at least in terms of optics, by a crash involving one autonomous Uber in Arizona this weekend, which was the subject of an (apparently quick, cut-and-dried) investigation.
There were no injuries from the collision, but it definitely looked gnarly. The car was in autonomous mode at the time of the crash, with Uber safety drivers in the front seats to take over if necessary — but apparently not in time — and no customers inside. Another car reportedly failed to yield to the autonomous Uber, and the vehicle was flipped on its side according to Tempe police. As the Washington Post framed the problem there, "Though reports indicate the Uber vehicle was not at fault, the accident raises questions about how self-driving cars will share the road with human drivers."
So human drivers, be on the lookout. "Our cars will be back on the road in Tempe and Pittsburgh later today," an Uber spokesperson told Reuters. There are 43 active autonomous cars in Uber's fleet, and here in San Francisco they've now got DMV permits to operate two of them, though lacking those hasn't stopped the company in the past. The permits do mean that if autonomous Uber cars experience more hiccups, like the red-light running incident that took place here, the DMV will hypothetically have access to the details, rather than just the Uber spin.
In that instance, the company originally blamed the mistake on its driver, but employees later leaked the fact it was driving itself. Uber still frames the issue as a driver error, since the driver failed to take over the car, as humans must with some frequency. In fact, Uber cars average less than a mile on their own before they need human assistance, according to a recent report.