Uber Technologies Inc. received a green light from Pennsylvania officials this week to resume its self-driving car testing on public roads. Nine months ago, the program was suspended, following an accident which killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona.
An Uber spokeswoman said on Tuesday it had not restarted the self-driving car testing. According to The Information, Pennsylvania’s Department of Transportation (PennDOT) approved Uber’s request –made last month – to begin testing autonomously in Pittsburg, where the company’s Advanced Technologies Group is headquartered.
Last month, Uber was seeking permission from Pennsylvania and said that when it resumes the testing, it will enable automatic braking system at all times, have two employees in the front seat, and more strictly monitor safety drivers.
Earlier this month, Reuters reported that after receiving the approval from the Pennsylvania officials, the company planned to start driving a handful of cars on a mile loop between its two headquarters in Pittsburg, citing spokeswoman Sarah Abboud.
According to Reuters news, Uber’s re-launch of the self-driving cars is a dramatic downsize from its earlier operation. In the past, it had unleased autonomous vehicles at high speeds on public roads crowded with pedestrians, in the night with only one backup driver in the front seat.
This time, Abboud said that the self-driving cars will not be driven after dark and in wet weather, and the speed will not exceed 25 miles per hour. Now, the company has no plans to restart picking up passengers in the autonomous cars, a service it started in 2016.
In March, authorities in Arizona had suspended Uber to test its autonomous cars on the public roads, after one of the cars hit and killed a pedestrian crossing the street at night in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe, where the company’s largest testing hub is headquartered. Following the accident, Uber had voluntarily halted its entire self-driving car testing programme.
In July, PennDOT issued a safety guidance for highly automated vehicles, which directs the self-driving companies to submit a ‘notice of testing’. The state said it will gather the data on a semi-annual basis including the approximate miles the autonomous vehicles travelled on the streets of Pennsylvania. Around this time, Uber’s autonomous cars resumed to Pittsburg’s streets, though in manual mode.