Uber’s self-driving car research program hit a speedbump last week after one of the automated cars was involved in a crash with two other vehicles in Tempe, Arizona.
Uber, like Google and most major car companies, has been testing autonomous vehicles that can self-drive at length. The company suspended its self-driving vehicle program at least until an investigation of the crash is complete.
According to the Tempe Police Department, a driver in a second vehicle attempting a left turn “failed to yield” to the Uber vehicle, a Volvo SUV.
“The vehicles collided, causing the autonomous vehicle to roll onto its side,” Tempe Police Department spokeswoman Josie Montenegro told Reuters, adding there were no serious injuries.
Two auxiliary drivers were in the front seat of the Uber vehicle, which was in self-driving mode when the crash occurred. Uber said that it was standard procedure to have two “safety drivers” in the autonomous vehicles to override the auto-pilot if necessary.
According to Reuters, Uber launched the pilot program last year in Pittsburgh. At that time the company said that driverless vehicles “require human intervention in many conditions, including bad weather.”
Uber’s self-driving vehicle programs in Pittsburgh and San Francisco will also be suspended pending the results of the investigation.
Although Uber is suspending its pilot program, it is likely that researchers developing the autonomous vehicles will learn a lot from the Tempe crash, including how a driverless car can better avoid similar collisions caused by human drivers.
Autonomous cars by different automakers and other tech companies travel millions of miles every year, and although they have a far better safety record than human-driven cars, they are not entirely accident free.
Last year, autonomous cars were involved in two accidents. The driver of a Tesla Motors Model S car was killed in Florida while the car was driving on autopilot mode and failed to brake for a tractor trailer turning left in front of the vehicle because of sunlight glaring off the side of the truck.
The other crash involved a Google self-driving car that was attempting to navigate around an obstacle in Mountain View, California, and struck a bus. The collision was minor and there were no injuries.