They’re only in the Richmond District, with a human safety driver onboard, but the Uber self-driving cars are back in town starting today after getting the go-ahead from the DMV to return to SF last month.
It’s been a few years since Uber unleashed their self-driving cars in San Francisco, more or less without DMV permission, and on their very first day the Examiner reported the cars were already running red lights. That was of course nothing compared to the fatal pedestrian crash in Tempe, Arizona in March of 2018. The incident caused Uber to dramatically scale back their public testing of the autonomous vehicles. But apparently the robot cars are back at it, as the Examiner reported this morning that Uber self-driving cars are back in San Francisco.
Starting today, two of our self-driving vehicles will begin autonomy testing in our home city of San Francisco. It's great to be back! https://t.co/fRUAzUhwem— UberATG (@UberATG) March 10, 2020
According to the Examiner, the autonomous vehicles will be Volvo XC90s, will only run in the less-crowded Richmond District during daylight hours, and will have a human safety driver onboard.
“We are excited to resume autonomous testing in Uber’s home city this week,” Uber said in an email statement. “Our testing area will be limited in scope to start, but we look forward to scaling up our efforts in the months ahead and learning from the difficult but informative road conditions that the Bay Area has to offer.”
We caught wind last month that Uber has secured the proper DMV permits for a second go at it here in California, and TechCrunch reports the vehicles are also being tested on the streets of Dallas, Pittsburgh, and Washington D.C.
Uber and self-driving cars are both entities that have rightfully earned public suspicion, and the two together seemed a terrifying, unholy mashup during Uber’s Travis Kalanick era. In fact, TechCrunch “rumors circulated that the company wanted to sell its self-driving unit” after the company laid off about 100 people in the autonomous vehicle division in July 2018, about a year after Kalanick stepped down as CEO. There was also the ugly drama of a Google Waymo lawsuit over stolen trade secrets. But with their legal issues pretty much now resolved, and the company’s confidence in the technology returning, Uber is taking another crack at autonomous cars
The vehicles appear to have made it through the day without accidents or red lights, but then again, there are still a few hours of daylight left today,