News & Politics

Uber's Self-Driving Cars Hit the Streets Again With Human Drivers

They’re baaaaaaack:

Uber’s fleet of autonomous vehicles has been “grounded” ever since a woman was tragically killed by one in Tempe, AZ last march. The future of the program had been uncertain but Uber has found a way to let its self-driving cars tiptoe back into the water, if you will.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey shut down all Uber autonomous car testing in his state after the accident. Uber’s other autonomous testing city — Pittsburgh, PA — received no such permanent ban. So it is there that, according to The Verge, Uber is relaunching its testing, albeit in a markedly different fashion.

The cars will be manually operated by what Uber is calling “mission specialists” who will be there not just for safety, but “for the purposes of data collection and map updates.”

Because it was determined that the safety driver in the car involved in the Arizona tragedy may have been distracted, the test cars will now feature “an active driver monitoring system that keeps tabs on the safety driver while they are keeping tabs on the car.” An audible warning from a driver-facing camera will be delivered if “inattentive behavior” is detected.

For all of the dire warnings about Artificial Intelligence (AI), there are even more examples like this of just how flawed is still is and how far it has to go. The media loves running with stories about real AI being just around the corner but the reality is that it’s in its infancy and, when it comes to more complex tasks like driving a car, still needs a human babysitter.

HAL 9000 isn’t going to be ready to take over a space ship any time soon.