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Uber Is Back in ‘Autonomous’ Years After Fatal Crash

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The cameras on a pilot model of an Uber self-driving car are displayed at the Uber Advanced Technologies Center on September 13, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The cameras on a pilot model of an Uber self-driving car are displayed at the Uber Advanced Technologies Center on September 13, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Photo: Angelo Merendino / AFP (Getty Images)

Uber is partnering with the Hyundai-Aptiv joint autonomous vehicle venture Motional in a huge 10-year agreement that could potentially create, according to the companies “…one of the largest deployments of autonomous vehicles on a major ride-hail network, with the potential to reach millions of Uber riders.”

The joint press release promises services in multiple cities of both AV Uber rides and Uber Eats deliveries. We don’t know which cities those are, but Motional and Uber Eats are already running a pilot program in Santa Monica delivering food via AV and have done extensive testing in the rest of the Los Angeles area. Uber already has a smaller 10-year deal with Nuro in California and Texas, the Verge reports.

Meanwhile, Motional’s IONIQ 5 ”robotaxis” are being used in Las Vegas for two years now. The electric cars will go a long way to Uber’s goal of using only EVs by 2030. The vehicles will be used to ferry both people and Uber Eats orders. Those folks will have to sign up as beta tester, but they won’t need to sign non-disclosure agreements or waitlists. The end user will control everything, from unlocking the vehicle’s doors to setting a destination via the already familiar Uber app.

Uber left the AV game two years ago when it sold its self-driving car business to Aurora Innovation. The division stalled, however, following a tragic death caused by an Uber self-driving vehicle striking a woman on a bike in 2018. After a lengthy investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board found that Uber, the Uber employee behind the wheel, and, most gallingly, the victim herself were all equally to blame for the crash. Despite its well-documented history of unsafe practices, Uber got off light. The company settled out of court with the victim’s families while the low-level employee behind the wheel that night is the only one to face any real consequences. They’re currently awaiting trial for vehicular manslaughter.

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