Uber is shutting down its self-driving car program in Arizona. The move comes in the wake of a fatality that occurred in March, when an Uber vehicle in autonomous mode struck and killed a woman crossing a street.
AZ Central first reported that about 200 employees at the Uber self-driving car program in Tempe, Arizona, were fired Wednesday morning. The full shutdown is expected to take a few weeks.
When the woman who was killed, 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, there was a human test driver in the front seat, and in response Uber put its entire autonomous driving program on hold. Test drivers were apparently still being paid during the program freeze, at least until Wednesday’s firings. Uber says it will provide career coaching and job help for its Arizona employees.
In an internal email obtained by Ars Technica, Uber’s head of advanced technologies, Eric Meyhofer, wrote about refocusing self-driving testing around its efforts in California and Pittsburgh. “We are not shutting down our self-driving program,” he wrote. He mentioned resuming operations in Pittsburgh this summer. Uber is talking to San Francisco and Sacramento about testing in those cities.
In response to an query from Mashable, an Uber spokesperson emailed this statement: “We’re committed to self-driving technology and look forward to returning to public roads in the coming months. In the meantime, we remain focused on our top-to-bottom safety review, having brought on former NTSB Chair Christopher Hart to advise us on our overall safety culture.”
Uber’s ride-hailing and food delivery services in Arizona will continue as usual.