CMU pro­fes­sor: Uber lay­offs are crit­i­cal in re­struc­tur­ing com­pany

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Classified obituaries - By Court­ney Lin­der

Pitts­burgh Post-Gazette

At an all-hands meet­ing Wed­nes­day, Uber in­formed 100 self­driv­ing ve­hi­cle oper­a­tors at test­ing sites in Pitts­burgh and San Fran­cisco that their jobs were be­ing elim­i­nated. Most were based in the Strip District.

The cuts re­flect the com­pany’s re­al­iza­tion that some things needed to change, a Carnegie Mel­lon Univer­sity pro­fes­sor said.

Af­ter a self-driv­ing Uber in au­ton­o­mous mode struck and killed a 49-year-old woman in Tempe, Ariz., it ex­posed the com­pany’s short­com­ings in safety cul­ture — in­clud­ing prob­lems with tech­nol­ogy test­ing and op­er­a­tor train­ing — ac­cord­ing to Raj Ra­jku­mar, a CMU pro­fes­sor of elec­tri­cal and com­puter en­gi­neer­ing.

“They need to re­think their en­tire method­ol­ogy, and this lay­off an­nounce­ment is per­haps one of many steps in that re­struc­tur­ing process,” said Mr. Ra­jku­mar, who also is co-di­rec­tor of CMU’s au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles lab and founder of Ot­tomatika, a CMU spinoff that pro­vides soft­ware and sys­tems devel­op­ment for self­driv­ing ve­hi­cles. The com­pany was ac­quired by Del­phi, now Ap­tiv, in 2014.

Uber’s safety oper­a­tors’ re­spon­si­bil­i­ties must be revisited, he said, and hir­ing and train­ing need to be dra­mat­i­cally re­vised.

Rafaela Vasquez, the op­er­a­tor be­hind the wheel of the self-driv­ing Uber that struck and killed Elaine Herzberg as she crossed a street in March, was stream­ing the TV show “The Voice” right be­fore the crash, ac­cord­ing to po­lice.

Uber said Thurs­day that it is cre­at­ing 55 new “mis­sion spe­cial­ists” roles and dis­placed work­ers would be given pri­or­ity in the ap­pli­ca­tion process. Those in­di­vid­u­als will be trained for both on­road and test track en­vi­ron­ments.

Mr. Ra­jku­mar be­lieves the re­quire­ments for the new po­si­tions will likely be sub­stan­tially dif­fer­ent from the pre­vi­ous op­er­a­tor roles, with a more tech­ni­cal el­e­ment.

He ap­pears to be cor­rect — mis­sion spe­cial­ists will need to un­der­stand the tests be­ing run on the track in Hazel­wood, ac­cord­ing to Uber, and they will need to be ac­quainted with how to set up sce­nar­ios on the track and com­mu­ni­cate find­ings with the en­gi­neers.

Pre­vi­ously, a dif­fer­ent team was re­spon­si­ble for such pro­cesses.

The com­pany said it will fa­cil­i­tate any ad­di­tional train­ing for dis­placed oper­a­tors hired as mis­sion spe­cial­ists.

Uber did not give fur­ther specifics on tech­ni­cal qual­i­fi­ca­tions for mis­sion spe­cial­ist hires.

“It is also un­for­tu­nate that 100 jobs have been lost. The peo­ple el­e­ment of this devel­op­ment is sad but un­for­tu­nately deemed to be nec­es­sary,” Mr. Ra­jku­mar said.

“Uber­hope­fully will re­visit the big­ger pic­ture and learn from other play­ers in the in­dus­try.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.