Uber is suspending its self-driving car program after an autonomous vehicle in its U.S. fleet was involved in an accident in Tempe, Arizona on Saturday.
News of the accident broke on Twitter, when Arizona-based Fresco News, shared a picture of one of Uber’s self-driving Volvo’s laying on its side. Next to the Volvo another car is pictured with dents and smashed windows, apparently a result of the impact between the two.
BREAKING: Self-driving Uber vehicle on it’s side after a collision in Tempe, AZ.
— Fresco News (@fresconews) March 25, 2017
Although the Uber vehicle was allegedly not responsible for the collision and there were no injuries, the ride-sharing company has decided to halt all self-driving tests that are currently being carried out in Arizona, Pennsylvania and California.
Tempe police information officer Josie Montengro told Bloomberg News that the other car had failed to yield for the Uber car, causing the autonomous vehicle to flip on its side.
That’s an excuse which some people think is a little bit suss, but OK.
In the last two months, Uber scandals have been coming in almost as fast as Donald Trump stories, and that’s saying something.
In early February, the company was accused of tacitly supporting the Trump administration’s travel ban when it turned of surged pricing during a taxi strike at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport. After #deleteUber started trending, Uber decided to explicitly come out against the ban, but the damage was already done.
Later in the month, Uber made headlines again when a female engineer made sexual harassment allegations against the company in a blog post.
Then earlier this month, a video of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick arguing with an Uber driver surfaced. In the video, the embattled CEO told the driver to “take responsibility for his problems”. Not long after, Kalanick seemed to take his own advice and publicly asked for “leadership help”.
He must not have got it because Uber president Jeff Jones quit this month, citing differences over “beliefs and approach to leadership”.
Oh and on top of all that, there are some new legal troubles too. The ridesharing giant has been using something called Greyball to evade regulatory authorities and is currently in a lawsuit with Google over swiping autonomous driving tech.
Compared to these scandals, the crash is just a blip on the radar especially since the accident wasn’t even the Uber car’s fault. If anything, it proves that humans are bad drivers and that we do actually need self-driving cars.
On the other hand, if the human monitoring the autonomous vehicle had taken control of it, could the accident have been prevented? It’s hard to say at this point and Uber claims that it is still investigating.
As with the case of the #deleteUber it might not matter. The optics of a driverless car laying on its side are so bad that it will be hard to recover from this – yet another PR disaster for an already embattled company.