It’s no secret that Uber has been working on self-driving technology, but now we’re hearing that the ride-sharing firm may have its first customer. The company is reportedly in talks with Toyota, which may put its self-driving technology in one of its minivans.
Uber execs meet with Toyota
Citing sources familiar with the negotiations, the Nikkei Asian Review reports that Uber Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi met with two Toyota executives this week at the ride-sharing firm’s Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania research and development facility. The news outlet also reports that Uber has been partnering with several other companies, of which Toyota is one. The ride-sharing firm is also said to be working with Volvo on self-driving technology and has struck a deal to use self-driving vehicles from Daimler in its network.
Uber’s self-driving technology is a system that can be installed in regular vehicles after customers purchase them, the head of the company’s advanced technologies group told the Nikkei Asian Review. He explained that the system uses data provided by lidar, a suite of sensors and cameras and then processes it all centrally. After it’s installed in a vehicle, the system gives the vehicle self-driving capabilities that can be used under normal driving circumstances, but not during emergencies.
Toyota is working on its own self-driving technology, but it also plans to use systems developed by other companies for vehicles used in mobility services. According to the Nikkei Asian Review, the Japanese automaker could use technology developed by Chinese ride-sharing firm Didi Chuxing in addition to Uber’s self-driving system.
Self-driving car fitted with Uber tech gets into an accident
Of course, self-driving technology is only as good as its ability to avoid accidents, so any time there’s a wreck involving an autonomous vehicle, it makes the news. Crashes involving Tesla’s Autopilot have been well-documented for years, but now, it’s Uber’s turn to be in the limelight. WXPI initially reported on the accident involving the Uber self-driving car earlier this month. It happened in Pittsburgh in late February, and both vehicles were seriously damaged, although no one was hurt.
This week, Ars Technica spoke with the woman who was driving the car that the Uber vehicle collided with. She was driving northeast-bound on a four-lane road, while the Uber car was traveling in the opposite direction. She said the self-driving Uber vehicle was the only oncoming car at the time of the crash. She stopped at an intersection and turned on her signal to show that she was going to turn left, and the Uber vehicle had its right turn signal on.
Seeing the signal, the mother of three started to turn left, but the self-driven vehicle did not turn like the signal indicated that it would. Instead, the self-driven car continued on straight and slammed directly into the woman’s car. The company’s safety driver told her that the self-driving system was engaged when the accident happened, and he did say that both his vehicle and her vehicle had their turn signals on.
However, Uber disputes which turn signal was on, according to Ars Technica. The ride-sharing firm claims the car had its right signal on because it was about to change lanes. Apparently, the company isn’t even responding to the woman’s phone calls asking if it will pay for the damage to her car. Cases such as this will be under close watch as precedents regarding fault in cases involving autonomous cars still need to be set.