Uber lays off around 100self-driv­ing car op­er­a­tors

San Fran­cisco and Pitts­burgh driv­ers among hard­est hit as com­pany scales back test­ing

The Mercury News Weekend - - BUSINESS - By Se­ung Lee slee@ba­yare­anews­group.com

Uber’s self- driv­ing car ex­per­i­ments are tak­ing a back­seat for now.

Af­ter an Uber self- driv­ing car fa­tally struck a pedes­trian in Tempe, Ari­zona in March, Uber paused test­ing of its ex­per­i­men­tal ve­hi­cles on pub­lic roads. On Wed­nes­day, it laid off ap­prox­i­mately 100 au­tono- mous ve­hi­cle op­er­a­tors.

While most of the op­er­a­tors are based in Pitts­burgh, some are based in the Bay Area, an Uber spokesper­son told this news or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“Our team re­mains com­mit­ted to building safe self- driv­ing tech­nol­ogy, and we look for­ward to re­turn­ing to pub­lic roads in the com­ing months,” the Uber spokesper­son said in an emailed state­ment.

The laid- off op­er­a­tors, how­ever, can re- ap­ply for an­other job at Uber as “mis­sion spe­cial­ists.” Mis­sion spe­cial­ists will be trained in both on­road and more ad­vanced test­track op­er­a­tions and are ex­pected to pro­vide more tech­ni­cal feed­back to self- driv­ing car de­vel­op­ers.

Uber is hir­ing 55 mis­sion spe­cial­ists and will pri­or­i­tize the laid- off em­ploy­ees. Uber also plans to re­sume its self- driv­ing car op­er­a­tions in Pitts­burgh later this sum­mer.

Soon af­ter the fa­tal car ac­ci­dent on March 18, Uber paused all of its self- driv­ing car opera- tions in Pitts­burgh, San Fran­cisco, Tempe and Toronto.

In May, the Na­tional Transportation Safety Board ( NTSB) re­leased its pre­lim­i­nary report on the ac­ci­dent. It found that the Uber ve­hi­cle that struck and killed 49-year- old Elaine Herzberg was “op­er­at­ing nor­mally at the time of the crash, and there were no faults or di­ag­nos­tic mes­sages.” The report also said Uber pre­vi­ously dis­abled the ve­hi­cle’s auto- matic emer­gency brak­ing sys­tem to pre­vent er­ratic driv­ing.

A sep­a­rate report in June from the Tempe Po­lice De­part­ment on the crash said the au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cle op­er­a­tor be­hind the wheel was stream­ing an episode of “The Voice” on his cell phone and that the op­er­a­tor could have braked the car to stop the ac­ci­dent from hap­pen­ing.

Con­tact Se­ung Lee at 408920- 5021.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS AR­CHIVES

Laid-off op­er­a­tors can re-ap­ply for an­other job at Uber as “mis­sion spe­cial­ists.” Mis­sion spe­cial­ists will be trained in both on-road and more ad­vanced test-track op­er­a­tions.

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