Uber’s autonomous driving program came to a screeching halt following a fatal accident in Tempe, Arizona earlier this year. However, the company has invested a lot of time and money in the program, so giving up is not an option.
According to a source who spoke with The Information, Uber plans to resume testing autonomous vehicles in Pittsburgh, and possibly San Francisco, by August. When testing resumes, safety will be front and center.
The Information says the company will implement 16 safety recommendations which were made by an internal team that “reviewed Uber’s operations after the accident.” One of the reported changes will be an emergency braking system which will help prevent or mitigate collisions if there is a problem with the car’s autonomous driving system.
Besides the emergency braking system, autonomous Uber vehicles will now be staffed with two people. Uber used to have a safety driver and a co-pilot in its autonomous vehicles but dropped the practice to expand the testing program. However, some criticized the move as they felt safety drivers paid more attention when they were in the vehicle with another person. This seems reasonable and it’s possible that fatal accident wouldn’t have occurred if there was somebody else there to tell the safety driver to stop watching The Voice on their smartphone.
Other changes will include modifications to the autonomous driving software. The system will now be better at detecting objects on the roadway. The publication says Uber had previously adjusted the system’s sensitivity to limit “sudden braking or jerky moves” when an object was detected.
Aside from these changes, Uber has hired former NTSB chairman Christopher Hart to advise it on safety issues.