Internal email reveals Uber’s self-driving program was in rough shape

It looks like Uber's self-driving tests weren't going as well as the company let on

Uber logo on wall

In an almost 900 word email sent to Uber’s head of autonomous driving, it’s been revealed that the company knew how poorly its self-driving cars were performing on roads but chose to do nothing.

The email details that Uber’s self-driving cars and the backup drivers inside of them were both part of the issues that made the vehicles unsafe, according to The Information’s report.

The email came via an operations manager from Uber’s autonomous group named Robbie Miller. He sent it out on March 13th, just a few days before the fatal Uber crash on March 18th.

Miller’s email mentions things like near misses that were never adequately investigated or ignored altogether. Further, he says that the inattentiveness of the backup drivers could have prevented a number of accidents. During the March 18th accident, the backup driver was reportedly watching The Voice on Hulu, according to Reuters.

Miller also explains that Uber’s autonomous vehicles were crashing around every 24,000km (15,000 miles) and every few days a car would get into some sort of accident resulting in damage to the vehicle and subsequent repairs.

A month before the fatal accident in March, Uber’s cars were reportedly logging near misses as frequent as every 160km (roughly 100 miles). In addition, backup drivers were required to take control of vehicles every one to three miles.

Uber is once again testing its cars on roads, but it took until July 2018 for the company to feel comfortable with the safety of its vehicles.

The main catch is now real drivers are operating the cars until the company is confident in its self-driving technology.

According to The Verge, Uber has taken Miller’s improvements and ideas under consideration as the company gets ready to re-launch its autonomous fleet in full force. 

Source: The Verge, The Information