What we know about self-driving cars in Arizona

In this Dec. 13, 2016, file photo, an Uber driverless car is displayed in a garage in San Francisco.(Photo: Eric Risberg/Associated Press)

Uber says it is investigating the incident and that there were no passengers in the back seat of the self-driving car.

The Republic, wire reports

Uber says its self-driving cars remains suspended in Arizona and Pittsburgh following a crash over the weekend in Tempe.

The company also grounded self-driving cars in San Francisco during the weekend but they resumed operating Monday. The difference between the California program vs. the ones in Arizona and Pennsylvania is that California does not allow passengers to ride in the vehicles.

There were no serious injuries reported in the incident in Tempe on Friday night. Police said the self-driving Uber SUV was obeying the law while the human driver of the other car was cited for a moving violation.

Uber says it is investigating the incident and that there were no passengers in the back seat of the self-driving car.

Multiple automakers and technology companies are testing fleets of self-driving vehicles. In nearly all cases, the cars have backup drivers who can take the wheel in an emergency.

How does the technology work?

Arizona Republic reporter Ryan Randazzo has written extensive about self-driving cars, including how the technology works. Here is a snippet from his a previous article on Waymo, a self-driving car company that is also a division of Google.

The cars use a variety of sensors to navigate and avoid collisions.

See what it’s like to go for a ride in a Waymo, the new name for Google’s self-driving car project. Nick Oza/azcentral.com

“When the car is unsure, it does the conservative thing,” said Jaime Waydo, a lead systems engineer for Waymo who has also worked in various positions as an engineer for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “We’ve seen a lot of really weird stuff.”

The engineers have to program the cars to not only safely navigate “weird stuff,” such as a woman chasing ducks with a broom (Waydo’s example), but to also do it without simply bailing out and re-engaging the human driver.

How many self-driving cars are in Arizona?

Waymo vehicle testers have had about 10 of the self-driving Lexus RX 450h vehicles in Arizona for almost a year. Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans were expected to join the test fleet in Arizona

Since Waymo came to Chandler, General Motors has expanded its self-driving car tests to Scottsdale.

Uber brought a small fleet of similar test cars to Arizona after a dustup with California regulators. Uber started its local program by sticking to the Tempe area. Friday’s collision happened in the area of Don Carlos Avenue and McClintock Drive.

Gov. Doug Ducey welcomes Uber’s self-driving Volvo vehicles to Arizona. Nick Oza/azcentral.com

How safe are self-driving cars?

Testing hasn’t been accident-free. Waymo has been testing self-driving cars since 2009 and has driven them more than 2 billion miles.

Last year, Waymo reported 13 accidents involving its fleet in California, which requires companies testing autonomous vehicles to report any accidents. Most of the accidents were minor and weren’t caused by Waymo’s vehicles. But in February 2016, a Waymo test car struck a public bus near the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, California. No one was injured.

Cruise Automation — a self-driving startup owned by General Motors Co. — and Nissan Motor Co. also reported fender benders involving self-driving cars in California within the last year.

Last year, a driver of a semi-autonomous Tesla — which is different from a self-driving car — was killed with the car’s Autopilot system engaged.\

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This article was originally published on azcentral.com at 10:56 a.m. March 27, 2017. Read it here.

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