Less than a week after self-driving Uber cars were spotted committing a range of traffic violations in San Francisco, the company has admitted that its autonomous vehicles also have a "problem" with the way they handle bike lanes. An Uber spokesperson told the Guardian that the company was working to fix a programming flaw that could see the cars making unsafe turns in the city's cycling lanes
The statement from the company comes after a warning from the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, whose executive director, Brian Weidenmeier, said he twice saw an Uber car in self-driving mode make an “unsafe right-hook-style turn through a bike lane" during a trial of the service on Monday last week. Rather than merging into bike lanes early to make right-hand turns, as per California state law, the Uber vehicle reportedly pulled across the bike lanes at the last second, risking collisions with oncoming cyclists.
Uber introduced its fleet of self-driving cars to the streets of San Francisco last Wednesday, whereupon they were quickly observed not halting at stop signs, failing to yield for pedestrians, and breaking other rules of the road. The company addressed one video that showed an Uber car running a red light, claiming it was being operated by its human driver at the time, but Uber's promise to update its programming indicates the bike lane issue is a problem with its fleet's self-driving software rather than human error.
Weidenmeier says he informed Uber's policy and engineering team members of the problem after his preview ride, and was informed that the issue would be worked on. The problem was not fixed before Uber launched its service two days later, however, and the cars' human "safety drivers" were reportedly that they should take manual control when turning right in a street with a bike lane while engineers try to fix the vehicles' programming.
The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has said that launching the service before the programming was fixed is "unacceptable," joining a chorus of criticism from organizations in the city and elsewhere who have called the cars' behavior dangerous, and called for firmer legislation before live trials can continue. In the meantime, Uber is pushing ahead with its self-driving car scheme, using the current definition of an autonomous vehicle to ignore an order from the California Department of Motor Vehicles to apply for a $150 permit in the process.