Uber whistleblower says autonomous vehicles “routinely” involved in crashes | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Uber whistleblower says autonomous vehicles “routinely” involved in crashes

Uber autonomous vehicles allegedly crash every 15,000 miles; the average U.S. driver crashes every 165,000 miles

click to enlarge Uber autonomous Volvo SUV - CP PHOTO: REBECCA ADDISON
CP photo: Rebecca Addison
Uber autonomous Volvo SUV
In March, after an autonomous Uber vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona, the tech company shut down all of its autonomous-vehicle testing, including its fleet in Pittsburgh.

But according to a report from technology news site The Information, Uber autonomous vehicles were involved in several more crashes and rule-breaking events in the run-up to that fatal incident, including an incident in Pittsburgh.

Robbie Miller was an operations manager in Uber's self-driving truck program. Before quitting in March, he sent an email to the head of Uber’s driverless car division. In it, Miller detailed several crashes and incidents in which the autonomous vehicles exhibited “dangerous behavior.”


"A car was damaged nearly every other day in February," Miller said to tech site Ars Techina. "We shouldn’t be hitting things every 15,000 miles."

According to a 2012 article on Mashable, manual drivers get in crashes every 165,000 miles on average. The average person drives 16,500 a year, according to the Federal Highway Administration, and gets in a crash every ten years, according to Allstate.

That means, according to Miller's claims, Uber's autonomous vehicles are about 11 times more likely to crash than the average U.S. driver.

Miller even described an incident in Pittsburgh where, a few days before the Arizona crash, an autonomous SUV swerved onto the sidewalk and continued driving without the technology correcting the behavior.


Uber noted to the Post-Gazette that a manager did respond to Miller’s email saying that at the time the company would investigate and review his claims.

“Right now the entire team is focused on safely and responsibly returning to the road in self-driving mode,” wrote an Uber spokesperson in a statement to the P-G. “We have every confidence in the work that the team is doing to get us there.”

In May, when Uber was considering resuming its autonomous vehicle testing in Pittsburgh, Mayor Bill Peduto was skeptical of their return. He wanted Uber to commit to safety measures, like making sure AVs never exceeded traveling 25 mph,

Ultimately, Pennsylvania's Department of Transportation is the agency to allow Uber to resume testing. Uber says they have met PennDOT’s safety demands, but PennDOT has yet to give them the go-ahead to continue testing their autonomous technology. 

Comments (0)

Add a comment

Add a Comment