Uber will begin testing its self-driving cars in Dallas, Texas in November, the company announced Tuesday. The vehicles will be operated by human drivers in downtown Dallas to start out, collecting mapping data and capturing driving scenarios which Uber’s engineers will then reproduce in simulation.
This doesn’t mean Uber is planning to offer trips in its self-driving cars or even perform self-driving tests in Dallas. “The data we collect will inform our next steps — we may not look to test our self-driving system in Dallas immediately following this first round of data gathering,” Austin Geidt, head of Uber ATG strategy, said in a Medium post. “While we are certainly excited by this possibility, we are also committed to ensuring that every mile we drive on public roads contributes meaningfully to our development work.”
Uber wants to be seen as approaching its self-driving tests with an abundance of caution since a fatal crash in Tempe, Arizona, involving one of its autonomous vehicles in March 2018. The vehicle, which only had one safety driver behind the wheel, struck and killed 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg while she was walking her bike across the street. Police later said the safety driver was streaming The Voice on her phone at the time of the crash.
In response, Uber grounded its fleet of vehicles and temporarily shutdown its testing program. The company was ultimately cleared of any formal wrongdoing by local authorities, but the US National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating and expects to release its findings later this year. Uber settled a lawsuit with Herzberg’s family for an undisclosed sum.
Testing officially resumed nine months later, with the company’s Volvo SUVs operating in a closed loop in downtown Pittsburgh, where Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group is headquartered. The company recently unveiled its third-generation vehicle, which it plans to start testing in 2020.