Self Driving Cars
Uber

Uber to resume autonomous car testing 'in a few months', says CEO

Meanwhile, the company has sights set on a flying taxi service in 2023

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Uber plans to resume the testing of its autonomous cars on public roads "within the next few months", the company's chief executive has said.

During an on-stage interview at the firm's second annual Uber Elevate event in Los Angeles, Dara Khosrowshahi also said the company is undergoing a "top to bottom" safety review in the wake of one of its cars being involved in a fatal collision in March this year.

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Khosrowshahi's comments come two months after one of Uber's autonomous test vehicles struck and killed a pedestrian as they pushed a bicycle across the road in Tempe, Arizona.

The modified Volvo XC90 struck Elaine Hertzberg, 49, as she crossed the road away from a pedestrian crossing during the night of March 18. She was taken to hospital but later died from her injuries.

An investigation into the collision is ongoing, but a report this week claimed the calibration of the car's safety system was to blame, as it had been too aggressively tuned to ignore potential false positives, resulting in the car not taking action even though it reportedly saw Hertzberg. Video released by Tempe police shows the car's safety driver was looking down during the seconds before the incident.

"We're learning," Khosrowshahi said during the interview on May 10. "I think for us it really brought home this idea that safety has to come first."

When asked when its self-driving cars will be back on the road, Khosrowshahi said: "It'll be within the next few months...The time will be right when the time is right, because we are doing a top to bottom safety review, both internally and with independent folks coming in to look at our culture, practices etc. So we all know that, when we get back on the road it is in as safe a way as possible."

The Uber boss took over from co-founder Travis Kalanick in August 2017 after the company was shook by numerous scandals relating to its business practices.

'You have to take a step back'

Khosrowshahi went on: "There are trade-offs in life and I do think you have to be aware of unintended consequences in everything that you do. There's a balance; you want to push teams to be ambitious, you want to push them to innovate at the fringes, you want to get teams to be uncomfortable. But at the same time you have to check yourself, go back to first principles and ask yourself 'are we doing the right thing? Are we pushing too hard? And is it coming at the cost of safety?' And if it is, then you have to take a step back."

Uber Elevate, where the CEO was being interviewed on stage, is an event focused on the ride-sharing company's ambitious plans to offer an on-demand flying taxi service in the next decade. The vehicles will by semi-autonomous and partially controlled by a pilot at first. Khosrowshahi says he is "reasonably confident" that testing of this service will begin "by the end of 2020" and the company hopes for a commercial service to begin in 2023.


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