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Uber relaunches its self-driving program in Pittsburg

Earlier in the week, Uber announced that it is re-launching its self-driving cars in Pittsburgh, However, this time the self-driving cars will come with many changes.

Four months ago, a self-driving Uber rammed into a woman walking on a bicycle on an Arizona road. The woman was declared dead on the spot, which angered many and led to the permanent closure of Uber’s self-driving programs.

Now after conducting various police and federal investigations, it showed that the accident in which 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg was fatally hit was due to driver distraction and a few glitches with Uber’s software. Also, in San Francisco, Uber let its testing permit lapse.

Uber claims that it has looked into the matter and is all set to resume testing with a new and improved program.

Earlier in the week via  a blog post this week, Eric Meyhofer, Uber’s head of advanced technologies announced that the self-driving program has gone through a complete makeover, specifically giving importance to a “top-to-bottom review” with “additional focus on safety.”

Initially, all self-driving cars had only one operator, and the one who sat in the driver’s seat was in charge of it. However, after the tragic accident, the new self-driving program will now come with two “mission specialists” in the front seat as well as the passenger seat.

Until any further update, the cars would function only in manual mode, which means that a driver would be driving the car, even if they look like self-driving vehicles. This would actually be beneficial for Uber as the miles in manual mode would provide the company with data about real-time situations and an on-road experience. It also gives the additional help for Uber’s mapping efforts, which in the future would be a vital tool for autonomous driving.

Uber also announced that it would put every driver through a “rigorous training” program after completion of basic driving courses in defensive and distractive driving.

One of the major changes is that in the screens. Uber revealed that after a thorough review of the front-facing tablet, it will remove several distracting features from the tablet’s interface. According to the report filed by the Arizona police department, it was found that driver Rafaela Vasquez was streaming Hulu on a cell-phone prior to the crash.

According to Sanjoy Baruah, an engineering professor at Washington University in St. Louis, he stated that Uber’s revamped program would guide the company towards the right direction.

Baruah’s statement reads as follows, “previously, Uber was very quick to launch the self-drive program, thus overlooking a safe program, If you wish to introduce a new technology you have to spend some time babysitting just like Uber is doing now.”

 

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