PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Uber announced this week that its self-driving cars will return to Pittsburgh’s streets with one temporary change: there will be an operator behind the wheel.
It’s the latest announcement after the company’s July announcement that it planned to lay-off its self-driving car operators in the Steel City.
The company continues to rework its strategy after a tragic incident this past March. A self-driving Uber car struck and killed a woman in Arizona. Investigators later learned the car’s operator was streaming a television show and not paying attention in the moments before the crash.
Soon after the fatal crash, Uber pulled its self-driving vehicles out of Pittsburgh, the home of its self-driving research track in Hazelwood.
In a sudden turn of events, the company announced this week it will revamp its self-driving program with an operator driving each car manually. It also will add a second operator to each car’s passenger seat to take notes and document any possible incidents.
“It might be a good idea, it could be a good idea,” said one Pittsburgh resident.
“We’ve been behind one and no big deal,” said Juanita White. “I’m just not interested in them personally.”
The slate-gray Volvo XC90s will now cruise through Lawrenceville and the surrounding areas with heightened safety features including the built-in collision avoidance system that will remain enabled and allow for emergency braking.
Some Pittsburghers seem willing to give the company a second chance, pending more research and practice on the roads with the new technology.
“Whenever a machine makes a mistake it’s a big problem, whenever a human makes a mistake people forget about it,” said Chetan Rhabut, a Pittsburgh resident.
The goal, according to Uber, is to practice real-life scenarios with manual driving for the next few months before switching back to self-driving mode.
“I wouldn’t be the first person to try it out, but I would eventually feel safe maybe 10 years down the line, but as of now no I would definitely want a driver right now,” added Rhabut.