Uber said Wednesday it will shut down its self-driving vehicle operations in Arizona and deposit nearly 300 employees there.
The move comes two months after one of its cars hit a pedestrian, and nearly a year and a half, and killed, after Governor Doug Ducey (R) mocked officials in California, "the brakes on innovation and change through more bureaucracy and more regulation.
Most dismissed are security drivers, among them Rafaela Vasquez, who sat behind the wheel in March when Autonomous Volvo 2017 hit Elaine Herzberg (49) when she pushed a bicycle
A Tempe Police released Video showed that Vasquez repeatedly looked down before the Uber hit Herzberg. Neither the vehicle systems nor Vasquez stopped the vehicle on time and the exact reasons are being investigated by the National Road Safety Council. Human chaperones should take control if the sensors and algorithms of the cars are insufficient or other circumstances require it.
Uber stopped at driverless testing in Arizona and elsewhere after the collision, and Ducey later suspended the company's driverless operations in the state and said safety is his highest priority.
Ducey's spokeswoman Elizabeth Berry declined to provide details about Uber's departure or to say whether the governor was approaching. The regulation of the driverless industry had been a mistake. "The governor has always focused on what's best for Arizona citizens and public safety, not for a single company," Berry said in a statement, adding that the suspension of Uber's driverless tests is pending the outcome of the federal investigation remains.
On Wednesday, Tempe police filed what a spokesman called an incoming traffic collision investigation report to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office. A spokesman declined to publish the results until the district attorney's office's review and completion of the investigation, which is still considered active.
In a statement, Uber said that it is committed to "self-driving technology" and this is "In the near future", its driverless fleet will return to the road.
"In the meantime, we continue to focus on our security clearance after former NTSB chairman Christopher Hart has advised us on our overall security culture," the company said.
Uber works with local and state Pennsylvania officials in hopes of resuming road testing in Pittsburgh this summer.
The company will focus its real-life testing on locations where Uber engineers are available to make improvements rather than working remotely, as was the case in Arizona. The Arizona employees were mainly backup drivers, with some schedulers and other operators, but not engineers. Uber's main driverless research group is based in Pittsburgh.
The company also speaks with state officials in California and the cities of San Francisco and Sacramento about future driverless testing.
Uber will offer job coaching and other services in the coming weeks for the dismissed workers in Arizona. Carpooling and grocery stores continue in the state.