Ridesharing company Uber has had many a misadventure in the self-driving car arena leading up to a recent fatal accident in Tempe, Arizona that has brought public testing to a screeching halt, and some comments from former executive Anthony Levandowski show a lax attitude toward safety in autonomous vehicles that could possibly have contributed to Uber's current state of affairs. Levandowski, during his time with Google, was cited as asking company co-founder Larry Page to begin shipping self-driving cars for public testing long before most of the team felt that they were ready. Former boss and Waymo CEO John Crafcik said that he and Levandowski did not see eye to eye when it came to safety. In charge of Uber's self-driving operations after the company bought out his Otto startup, he was attributed as telling then-CEO of Uber Travis Kalanick that he saw self-driving development as a race and that he wanted to take as many shortcuts as possible. According to Levandowski's communications with Kalanick, "second place is first looser [sic]."
Levandowski led Uber's self-driving efforts for a while, including during a time that a study conducted on different self-driving cars showed that Uber's autonomous vehicles required human intervention more often than any others on the road. In the wake of the fatal Tempe, Arizona crash, Uber has suspended public testing of its self-driving vehicles pending further development of their systems, and possibly resolution of the doubtlessly precedent-setting investigation.
Levandowski started out as a Google employee, and worked on the company's self-driving car project from the beginning. Despite his tenure and talent, it was John Crafcik who was to become CEO when Waymo was spun out of Google X. A reportedly frustrated Levandowski left Waymo at that point to found self-driving truck startup Otto, only to later be bought up by Uber. The bitter court battle between Uber and Waymo had Levandowsi as its central figure, which saw him ousted from Uber in 2017. Currently, Waymo, Apple, and a number of other companies are testing their self-driving vehicles in a public setting, but only Uber has been involved in a fatal crash with a fully autonomous vehicle. Self-driving technology has been involved in a deadly crash before, but it was with a Tesla in semi-autonomous autopilot mode which had warned its owner to seize control well prior to the crash.