Uber terminated the entirety of its self-driving operators in its hometown of San Francisco and Pittsburgh, Quartz and TechCrunch independently report, citing sources familiar with the development. One of the world’s most valuable startups has been rethinking its autonomous car project ever since a fatal crash from late March which led to a pedestrian death and saw Uber effectively kicked out of Arizona by Governor Doug Ducey, leading the company to lay off its self-driving operators in Tempe and close up shop.
Some 100 operators were terminated in Pittsburgh, with their positions being planned to be replaced with 55 “mission specialists” who won’t just be responsible for basic on-the-road monitoring but also provide the firm with technical feedback regarding the performance of its self-driving vehicles, as per the same report. It’s presently unclear when those roles are meant to be filled as Uber has yet to restart its autonomous driving project in the United States. Its permit to test such vehicles on public roads in California also expired this spring, with the startup giving no indication of planning to renew it in the near future. Uber Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi repeatedly said the company’s self-driving project hasn’t been scrapped but is simply being revised so as to ensure it’s as safe as possible.
One previous report indicated Uber may have cut some corners while preparing its autonomous vehicles for public road testing, primarily in terms of not committing enough resources to simulation software. The company’s self-driving operators first worked in pairs but started monitoring cars independently last November. The one that was present in the Volvo XC90 SUV which hit a 49-year-old woman in Tempe earlier this year may have been distracted by Hulu, a preliminary investigation into the incident suggests. Uber already settled with the family of the victim but it’s presently unclear whether Tempe authorities opt to press manslaughter charges against the operator herself.