Uber permanently ends self-driving car tests in Arizona

The company will be laying off around 300 employees in the state

Uber is stopping all self-driving car tests in Arizona, just over two months after an autonomous Uber vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian crossing Mill Avenue in Tempe. 

The Arizona Republic reported that the company will be laying off around 300 employees, who were notified before 9 a.m. Wednesday. 

“We’re committed to self-driving technology, and we look forward to returning to public roads in the near future," Uber said in a statement, first reported by The Republic. "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.”

Read More: Uber suspends self-driving car program after fatal accident in Tempe

Three days after the March 18 accident, Tempe Police Department released a video of the crash that was captured by the vehicle’s interior and exterior cameras. The clip shows that the vehicle did not significantly slow down and the driver, 44-year-old Rafaela Vasquez, was distracted. 

Meanwhile, the National Transportation Safety Board released Thursday a preliminary report for its ongoing investigation into the accident. The report claims the autonomous Volvo XC90 was actually not programmed to brake in the case of an emergency. 

“According to Uber, emergency braking maneuvers are not enabled while the vehicle is under computer control, to reduce the potential for erratic vehicle behavior,” according to the report. “The vehicle operator is relied on to intervene and take action. The system is not designed to alert the operator.”

Uber plans to continue its self-driving vehicle tests in Pittsburgh once the NTSB concludes its investigation into the Tempe crash. 

Editor’s note: This article may be updated to include more information as the story develops. 

Reach the reporter at parker.shea@asu.edu or follow @laconicshamanic on Twitter.

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