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Uber self-driving car crashes during US tests

An Uber self-driving car has crashed in Arizona, dealing another setback to the US ride-hailing company after a spate of adverse publicity over internal management failures.

The SUV was in a collision with another vehicle and rolled on to its side on Friday evening, according to local police. On Saturday, Uber said its vehicle was not carrying any customers at the time of the crash, but provided no further information about what caused the accident.

Tempe police department said the Uber SUV had been driving along a main road in the city when “another vehicle failed to yield while turning left” in front of it. “The vehicles collided, causing the autonomous vehicle to roll on to its side.”

The Uber vehicle was in self-driving mode at the time of the accident, according to one person familiar with the circumstances. All Uber test cars have two people in the front of the vehicle to monitor it and take control in an emergency.

It was not clear why the safety arrangements had failed to prevent the accident, or whether the person behind the wheel had tried use the manual override. Tempe police said there were “no serious injuries” from the accident.

Uber said: “We are continuing to look into this incident and can confirm we had no back seat passengers in the vehicle.”

The accident is a blow to the company’s hopes of being the first to bring a high level of autonomy into broad commercial use in the US. Uber started to develop driverless cars later than either Waymo, a sister company of Google, or Tesla, which has introduced a lower level of autonomy in its cars. The ride-hailing company last year sought to leapfrog those companies, becoming the first to start testing the technology in a pilot commercial service.

Uber has pulled all its self-driving cars off the road while it investigates the accident. Besides the pilot it was running in Arizona, it has been operating a similar commercial service with autonomous cars in Pittsburgh. It has also been testing its cars on the streets of San Francisco, after earlier falling foul of California regulators over the state’s licensing rules, though it has yet to carry paying customers there.

A Tesla car being driven in what it calls “autopilot” mode last year became the first vehicle using a form of driverless technology to be involved in a fatal accident. An official accident report earlier this year failed to find any evidence of a technical fault with the Tesla vehicle, though Federal regulators criticised the company for what it called “confusing” marketing of the technology.

Via FT