Following a car accident involving one of its self-driving cars, Uber is officially pulling out its autonomous testing program in Arizona, in addition to pausing its Pittsburgh test bed. This is the latest for a company currently facing a diverse set of controversies: from workplace sexism to Kalanick’s perceived lack of leadership to pressing accounts of its noxious office culture.
Uber’s Self-Driving Car Crashes
In a photo first posted on Twitter, one of Uber’s autonomous Volvos is shown half-capsized, on its side, beside another car with dents and smashed windows in what looks to be a high-impact crash in Tempe, Arizona.
A spokeswoman from Uber validated the incident, adding that Uber is officially halting self-driving tests in Arizona and pushing pause on Pittsburgh operations until it finishes an investigation regarding the incident.
As Bloomberg reports, Uber’s self-driving Volvo holds no responsibility for the accident, and that there were no injuries whatsoever, according to Josie Montenegro, a Tempe police information officer. Apparently, another car failed to yield for Uber’s Volvo, causing it to pivot on its side.
Furthermore, there was a person behind the wheel, according to Montenegro. It is, however, still to be determined whether at the time of the incident, the driver had operated the vehicle or had surrendered it to Uber’s self-driving technology. There were no backseat passengers inside the vehicle, an Uber spokeswoman confirmed.
Uber commenced its self-driving efforts in Pittsburgh last year, soon broadening the test bed to include Arizona. The program was set in place to determine the viability and feasibility of a potential self-driving fleet of cars integrating into Uber’s main ride-hailing service. It was also a way for Uber to demonstrate how far along in this type technology it was, which is crucial in the simmering plight of self-driving development. Its similar program in San Francisco, however, was banned by the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
Uber vs. Waymo
It isn’t going well for Uber’s self-driving front, however. Just recently, Otto, an Uber unit, was challenged by Waymo, Google’s proprietary self-driving division that’s also in the middle of testing autonomous vehicles, for allegedly stealing designs and blueprints for its self-driving technology.
Uber’s Other Controversies
When compared with Waymo, Uber’s recent Arizona incident looks problematic, looking at the number of incidents tied to each alone. Waymo, in more than 2 million miles accrued from public road tests, only involved minor incidents, Bloomberg reports.
The incident also adds to Uber’s growing list of publicized scandals. First to kick this continued narrative into gear was Uber’s perceived exploitation of Trump’s now-blocked Immigration ban, wherein Uber turned off surge pricing of its cars within proximity to a location where cab drivers were protesting against the ban. The incident prompted the #DeleteUber campaign, in which Uber users withdrew themselves from the ride-hailing service.
But the following calm that washed over the campaign was short-lived; another controversy brought it back into the fore. It was thanks to Susan Fowler, a former Uber engineer, who detailed the grave instances of downplayed, ignored, and bypassed sexual harassment inside Uber.
As if that wasn’t enough to invoke a public outcry, this month, the New York Times also reported that Uber leveraged a tool called “Greyball” to help its drivers evade enforcement in cities where Uber operations are deemed illegal.
Travis Kalanick, Uber’s CEO, also publicly admitted that he needed leadership help, following a video of him, published by Bloomberg, arguing heatedly with an Uber driver, who complained that Uber’s business decisions, while helping passengers gravitate to Uber further, hurt the drivers.
Uber’s troubles are also accompanied a number of high-profile exits recently: Jeff Jones, who was the company’s president; Ed Baker, product and growth VP; and Amit Singhal, senior VP of engineering, over previously undisclosed instances of sexual harassment at his former employer, Google.
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