ShareThis Page

Uber self-driving fleet to return to Pittsburgh streets Monday

Aaron Aupperlee
| Monday, March 27, 2017, 11:15 a.m.
A self-driven Volvo SUV owned and operated by Uber Technologies Inc. is flipped on its side after a collision in Tempe, Arizona, U.S. on March 24, 2017.   Courtesy FRESCO NEWS/Mark Beach/Handout via REUTERS
Courtesy FRESCO NEWS/Mark Beach/Handout via REUTERS
A self-driven Volvo SUV owned and operated by Uber Technologies Inc. is flipped on its side after a collision in Tempe, Arizona, U.S. on March 24, 2017. Courtesy FRESCO NEWS/Mark Beach/Handout via REUTERS
A self-driven Volvo SUV owned and operated by Uber Technologies Inc. is flipped on its side after a collision in Tempe, Arizona, U.S. on March 24, 2017. Picture taken on March 24, 2017. Courtesy FRESCO NEWS/Mark Beach
FRESCO NEWS/Mark Beach
A self-driven Volvo SUV owned and operated by Uber Technologies Inc. is flipped on its side after a collision in Tempe, Arizona, U.S. on March 24, 2017. Picture taken on March 24, 2017. Courtesy FRESCO NEWS/Mark Beach

Uber's fleet of self-driving cars were scheduled to be back on Pittsburgh's streets by the end of the day Monday, an Uber spokesman told the Tribune-Review.

The company grounded its fleet of autonomous vehicles in Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Arizona after a crash in Tempe, Ariz., on Friday.

Cars in San Francisco went back on the road Monday morning, where they are used for mapping and data collection, not to transport passengers. The cars were to return to the road in Tempe on Monday as well.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto's chief of staff, Kevin Acklin, and the city's policy coordinator, Alex Pazuchanics, spoke with Uber representatives Monday afternoon, said Tim McNulty, the mayor's spokesman. Uber offered to share with the city details of the Tempe crash once the company's investigation is finished. The city and company pledged to keep lines of communication open if there is another crash.

“I think that their response was proper. Shutting down operations even though the vehicle was not at fault at least allows people to know that they have more at stake at this than just profit,” Peduto told reporters after being briefed on the conversation by Acklin.

“Nothing is fail proof,” he said. “There's accidents that happen every day in the city of Pittsburgh, and unfortunately fatalities that happen every week. We're at the very beginning of creating safer cars, safer traffic patterns, safer streets but that's still going to be decades away.”

Peduto also talked to Ford on Monday morning about expanding the company's presence in Pittsburgh. Ford invested $1 billion in Argo AI , a self-driving startup in Pittsburgh. The conversation focused on “big partnerships,” Peduto said, like attracting Chariot, Ford's on-demand ride-sharing shuttle service operating in San Francisco and Austin, Texas, and ways to make transportation to major hospitals easier for employees and patients.

Uber pulled its self-driving cars from the streets in Pittsburgh, Arizona and San Francisco because an autonomous Volvo XC90 was hit Friday in Tempe . The Volvo was in self-driving mode but did not have passengers in the back seat. No one was injured.

The Uber was making a left turn at an intersection and was struck by a car that did not yield. Photos from the crash scene show the Volvo SUV on its passenger side. The driver of the car that struck the Uber was ticketed in the crash.

The Tempe Police Department has not released its crash report.

Tempe Detective Lily Duran told the Trib that the investigating officer estimated that the Uber was traveling 38 mph and the at-fault car was going about 20 mph. The speed limit in the area is 40 mph. Duran hoped to make the crash report available later in the week.

The Volvo XC90 SUVs used by Uber in its pilot programs have earned top safety ratings. The 2016 model received five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for front and side crashes.

Uber announced a $300 million partnership with Volvo in August. The company has said it partnered with Volvo because of the brand's reputation for safety and high quality.

Uber said it paused its mapping and data collection operations in San Francisco and its passenger pilots in Pittsburgh and Tempe to better understand what happened in the crash. The company did not go into further detail.

Raj Rajkumar, a leading researcher in self-driving cars at Carnegie Mellon University, said enabling autonomous vehicles to take evasive maneuvers to avoid crashes is something that is being studied. But it is easier said than done.

“We as humans use common sense and logic to deal with things as they arise. Computer software only executes pre-programmed instructions, and the programmer must have accounted for all possibilities that may arise in practice,” Rajkumar wrote to the Tribune-Review. “It is not easy to pre-program what the self-driving vehicle should have done under all possible misbehaviors of other vehicles.”

Uber has been testing self-driving cars in Pittsburgh since May. The company started offering customers rides in its fleet in September. A safety driver sits behind the wheel and can take control of the car if needed. A technician sits in the passenger seat to monitor the car's performance.

Reporter Bob Bauder contributed to this story.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.