More detail of the Uber driverless testing incident supports the need for failsafe backup systems

The decision by the Governor of Arizona to order a suspension of Uber's driverless testing programme in the State comes as unwelcome news to all within the automotive industry working towards full vehicle automation. But as details of the recent incident involving a pedestrian fatality emerge, it seems possible that Uber's actions may be to blame.

The reason given for the suspension of testing is an "unquestionable failure" to comply with the expectation that testing of the technology would prioritise public safety. Uber had already ceased its testing activities following the incident.

Recent reports indicate that Uber had disabled the standard collision avoidance technology in the Volvo test vehicle. The maker of that system, Aptiv plc, has been speaking to journalists in order to avoid its technology being implicated in the incident. 

What this underlines is the need in all high automation vehicles for a state-of-the-art safety technology. We have argued consistently for an autonomous critical event control system in all vehicles having more than a minimal degree of automation. (Read more on that here.) In our view, standardised failsafe safety technology should come first, and should be standard in all test and commercial vehicles.

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