Despite March accident, Uber’s self-driving cars to return soon

11 May 2018

| Author: Jay Jay

Back in March, Uber’s self-driving car concept received a major jolt ahead of its introduction in the United States when one of its autonomous vehicles struck and killed a woman in Tempe, Arizona, forcing CEO Dara Khusrowshahi to release a statement on Twitter.

“Some incredibly sad news out of Arizona. We’re thinking of the victim’s family as we work with local law enforcement to understand what happened. Our hearts go out to the victim’s family. We’re fully cooperating with @TempePolice and local authorities as they investigate this incident,” he tweeted.

The incident highlighted that despite recent advances made in autonomous vehicle technology, safety issues are yet to be plugged and the introduction of such cars on roads need not be rushed until their manufacturers demonstrate that they have technologies in place to prevent road accidents and loss of life.

Self-driving cars to ply again

Self-driving cars have attracted much controversy ever since they were launched because questions are not only being raised about how safe they will be on the roads but also whether such cars will be secure enough against cyber attacks in the future.

“If there was a war or escalation with a country with strong cyber capability, I would be very afraid of hacking of vehicles. Many of our enemies are nuclear powers but any nation with the ability to launch a cyberstrike could kill millions of civilians by hacking cars,’ warned Justin Cappos, a computer scientist at New York University, in an interview goven to The Times.

“It’s daunting. They can send messages to the brakes and shut off the power steering and lock people in the car. and do other things that you wouldn’t want to happen. Once you are in the network you are able to communicate with any device so you could send a message to engage the brakes,’ he added.

Even though the United States’ National Traffic Safety Board is yet to announce the findings of its investigation into the accident involving one of Uber’s self-driving cars, CEO Dara Khusrowshahi recently stated that the cars will be back on the company’s testing grounds “within the next few months”.

It’ll be within the next few months… I don’t know, and the time will be right when the time is right because we’re doing a top to bottom safety review, both internally and with independent safety folks coming in to take a look at our culture, our practices, etc,” he said at the Uber Elevate conference in Los Angeles, adding that despite such hiccups, “technical people” at Uber will ensure that the company will win.

Data security concerns

The news also comes at a time when local councils in the UK are debating amongst themselves whether to renew Uber’s licence to operate in the UK’s cities in light of the massive data breach the ride-hailing company suffered in 2016 that impacted as many as 2.7 million Britons, including both drivers and riders.

Last week, the local council of Brighton announced that it will not renew Uber’s licence to operate in the region not only due to the data breach but also because of the firm’s lack of commitment to use drivers licenced in Brighton.

“When making Hackney Carriage and Private Hire operator licensing decisions, our priority is the safety of residents and visitors and, due to the data breach and the lack of commitment to using drivers licensed here, we were not satisfied that UBL [Uber Britannia Ltd] are a fit and proper person to hold an operator’s licence in the city,” said Councillor Jackie O’Quinn, the Chair of Brighton’s licensing panel.

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