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Uber’s self-driving cars in Arizona averaged only 13 miles without intervention prior to crash

Uber’s self-driving cars in Arizona averaged only 13 miles without intervention prior to crash
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Uber's self-driving cars already lagged well behind competitors in terms of reliability ahead of a fatal crash Sunday in Arizona, according to a new report Friday.

The New York Times reported that Uber's self-driving technology worked on average for just 13 miles in Arizona before requiring human correction to avoid a crash, compared to an average of 5,600 miles for one of Uber's top competitors in the market, Waymo, in nearby California. Uber has not released data for its self-driving car tests in California.

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On Sunday, a self-driving Uber car in Phoenix struck 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, who was crossing the street at night, while the car was in autonomous-driving mode and traveling at 40 mph in a 45 mph zone.

Police say the car, which at the time had an Uber employee in the driver's seat, did not slow down before striking the pedestrian and killing her. Uber suspended testing of their autonomous vehicles following the crash.

“As we develop self-driving technology, safety is our primary concern every step of the way,” Matt Kallman, an Uber spokesman, said after the crash. “We’re heartbroken by what happened this week, and our cars remain grounded. We continue to assist investigators in any way we can.”

The company moved from dual-operator tests to single-operator tests earlier this year despite concerns from drivers that the monotonous hours behind the wheel solo during tests could be distracting for solo drivers. 

According to Uber sources, in dual-operator tests one driver was responsible for monitoring the autonomous driving for errors, while the other was in charge of data entry.

A video released this week from inside the vehicle involved in the crash shows the driver not paying attention to the road until seconds before the crash.