Self-driving cars: Uber suspends program after Arizona crash

Update Wednesday: Hmm, was the Uber vehicle that crashed in Arizona trying to beat a light? A witness thought so, Bloomberg reports.

Update: An Uber spokesman said Monday, “We are resuming our development operations in San Francisco this morning.”

Later, vehicles in Arizona and Pittsburgh were expected to resume by day’s end as well.

Police in Tempe say “the self-driving SUV was obeying the law and the driver in the other car who didn’t yield was cited for a moving violation after the Friday night crash,” AP reported.  Not entirely clear is whether the automated vehicle could have stopped even if the other car’s driver was in wrong by failing to yield.

Two operators were reportedly in the front seat of the self-driving vehicle.

Original post: A rollover crash in Arizona has led Uber Technologies Inc. to suspend its self-driving car program there while it investigates what happened, an Uber spokesman said Saturday.

“We are continuing to look into this incident and can confirm we had no backseat passengers in the vehicle,” a spokesman said.

The vehicle in Tempe was in self-driving  mode,  according to people familiar with the incident. No one is believed  to be seriously injured.

A tweeted picture that Uber has not  disputed shows an overturned self-driving Volvo with damage to another vehicle.

Local authorities said the driver of the other car was cited for failing to yield,  leading to the collision, so it is not clear that anything the automated car did contributed to the incident.

A photo on Twitter is said to picture crash of self-driving car in Tempe, Ariz. (Attributed  to  user Mark Beach)

Still, the crash creates another slowdown in efforts to refine and test the technology. It follows the death of a driver in Williston, Fla. last year using a Tesla vehicle’s autopilot program, which apparently failed to distinguish between the sky and a light-colored truck crossing a highway.

The Arizona incident also comes after the New York Times reported drivers claimed Uber self-driving cars failed to recognize red lights in San Francisco.

Big forward-looking companies have invested giant piles of dollars in self-driving technology, which advocates say can lead to a safer and more convenient future. In the  meantime, a survey by AAA shows three out of four drivers fear autonomous cars, The Palm Beach Post reported earlier this month.

Self-driving cars: Oops, 3 out of 4 drivers fear them, survey says

Not so fast, prophets of an automated driving future.

Despite all the talk that self-driving cars represent a safer and more convenient road ahead, 54 percent of drivers said they feel less safe at the thought of sharing the pavement with said vehicles and 78 percent fear actually riding in one, a new survey finds.

TV’s Knight Rider could drive itself when needed.

Older drivers including Baby Boomers (60 percent) were more wary than Millennials (41 percent) about sharing the road, according to a survey by driver organization AAA. Still, only 10 percent of drivers in all age groups said they would feel positively safer around the automated vehicles, though 34 percent said it would not make a difference.

Significantly more people said they were afraid of riding in a self-driving car than driving near one, including a whopping 85 percent of women across all age groups compared to 69 percent of men.

A fatal accident last year involving a car on autopilot that did not recognize a large white truck against a bright sky as it crossed a highway in Williston, Fla. may not have done the industry many favors.

The polling suggests a bump in the road for visionaries who say the driverless age is just around the corner. Forward-leaning companies including Google, Uber, Tesla and a spate of other automakers have invested plenty of money.

“Consumers should always educate themselves concerning new car technology to fully understand the pros and cons,” said AAA spokeswoman Montrae Waiters in Tampa. “The key to consumer acceptance will be education. Autonomous vehicle safety features could potentially save lives.”

Feedback to this blog post: Hey, there are other things to worry about first, said Tomas Revesz, co-founder of the online insurance marketplace EverQuote.

“The good news for the 75% of Americans who are either afraid to ride in a self-driving car or to share the road with one is they have years, if not decades, before they need to worry about that occurring, despite the media hype that surrounds them,” Revesz said.”Not only is the technology not ready for mass adoption, but lawmakers and insurance providers are far from providing sound solutions that would support the safe and orderly transition to roads dominated by autonomous vehicles. The real danger over the next ten years is not a growing self-driving car population, but the increasing epidemic of distracted driving. Drivers should focus their attention on putting their phones down so we don’t continue to lose 35,000 lives a year until self-driving cars are everywhere.”

You betcha: There are actually betting odds related to automated car safety, we are informed.