Uber Closing Arizona Self-Driving Unit After Fatal Crash

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Uber is permanently shutting down its self-driving operations in Arizona following a fatal crash in March, AZCentral reports, adding that the closure of the unit will take several weeks. Some 200 affected employees in the state have been notified of the development, with all of them being terminated Wednesday morning local time, as per the same report. The workforce in question made up Uber’s Tempe, Arizona-based testing team that hasn’t worked since the March accident, though all employees continued receiving paychecks. One of the laid-off workers is understood to be the backup driver who was behind the wheel of the autonomous Volvo XC90 SUV which ran over a 49-year-old woman two months back.

Uber already settled with the family of what’s believed to be the first pedestrian fatality of a self-driving crash, having previously confirmed it hasn’t terminated the backup driver over the incident. Redacted video footage released by Tempe PD showed the driver looking down and away from the road moments before the crash, though the circumstances that led to the death of the jaywalking woman meant that even a vigilant driver would have had a hard time avoiding a collision, local investigators said. The firm’s autonomous driving operations are now set to be restarted in Pittsburgh in the coming weeks, as soon as the federal probe into the Tempe incident is concluded. It’s presently unclear whether Uber is planning to attempt renewing its testing permit in California which expired since it suspended all testing in the country due to the incident.

Uber is still conducting a thorough safety review of its self-driving operations ran by the company’s Advanced Technologies Group and its ride-hailing platform in Arizona won’t be affected by the latest development. The firm presently wouldn’t be able to trial autonomous vehicles in Tempe even if it wanted to as Governor Doug Ducey suspended it from operating in the state in the aftermath of the March incident. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi recently confirmed the startup has no plans to completely shutter its self-driving operations that it’s still positioning as a crucial component of its long-term strategy.