Uber removed second backup driver from self-driving test cars ahead of fatal crash

November 27, 2018

Prior to a fatal crash with between a pedestrian and its self-driving experimental car in Arizona, Uber is alleged to have removed a second human backup driver from its testing procedure.

The latest report comes from Business Insider, which said Monday that Uber handed over all monitoring and recording of the self-driving car's data to a single operator behind the wheel. 

Former employees told the publication it was like "distracted driving" and resulted in the driver watching their cell phone up to 15 percent of the time they were driving. By removing the second backup driver, Uber was able to cover significantly more miles in its self-driving cars. The second human in the car was responsible for logging issues on an iPad and identifying the car's requests to help identify objects on the road.

In March, a single backup driver was behind the wheel when an Uber prototype self-driving car struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. The woman crossed outside of the marked crosswalk and the self-driving car failed to recognize her before it was too late.

READ THIS: Uber ready to restart self-driving car tests

Investigations found Uber had disabled the Volvo XC90's automatic emergency braking system, according to the IIHS. The NTSB also found the safety driver was staring down at her lap and streaming a television show at the time of the crash. Hulu said the driver had been streaming "The Voice" for 42 minutes before the crash occurred. The IIHS said the Volvo's automatic emergency braking system likely would have stopped the wreck from ever happening had it not been switched off.

Months later, Uber said it's completed an internal and brought in another firm to complete an external safety review. The ride-share company wants to restart its self-driving tests again in the Pittsburgh area. The city's mayor and the company have sparred on social media over the company's plans to begin self-driving car tests again—Uber is also no longer welcome to carry out tests in Arizona.

As for the two-driver system, Uber has said it will reinstate both backup drivers when it begins its self-driving car tests again.

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