Uber admits problems with self driving car’s ability to deal with bike lanes 0

uber-admits-problems-with-self-driving-cars-ability-to-deal-with-bike-lanesCar ride company Uber has revealed there is a “problem” with its autonomous vehicles’ ability to cross bike lanes, raising safety concerns for cyclists. This revelation comes days after the company announced it intended to defy Californian regulators ban on self driving vehicles.

A spokesman for the company announced on Monday that its engineers were attempting to fix a defect in the programming, which could potentially cause danger for cyclists sharing the roads with the self driving vehicles.

Uber began its self-driving testing in the company’s home town of San Francisco in December, 2017, despite state officials declaring that the technology required special permits to be permitted to test on the city’s roads.

The first day of testing – which saw human testers on standby behind the wheel in case of emergencies – saw the autonomous cars commit a wide range of offenses including running red lights, and other traffic violations.

Threats of legal action have been levelled against Uber by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and California’s attorney general, Kamala Harris. The company has refused to back down however, on what they see as “an important issue of principle”.

There are wide reaching concerns about how the vehicles will react in city centres, particularly in San Francisco, where an estimated 82,000 bike rides are made every day across over 200 miles of cycling lanes.

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has already issued a warning concerning the vehicles based on firsthand experience of the car’s potential to perform erratic driving moves. The coalition’s executive director was testing the car just days before its launch when it performed a “unsafe right-hook-style turn through a bike lane”.

“It’s one of the biggest causes of collisions,” said coalition spokesman Chris Cassidy.

“The fact that they know there’s a dangerous flaw in the technology and persisted in a surprise launch,” he said, “shows a reckless disregard for the safety of people in our streets.”

Uber spokeswoman Chelsea Kohler responded by saying that “engineers are continuing to work on the problem”, and said that the company has instructed drivers to take control when approaching right turns on a street with a bike lane.

Linda Bailey, executive director of the National Association of City Transportation Officials said, “It’s very clear that people are not good at paying attention,” she said, adding, “We’re waiting for enough people to die for something to happen. It’s not a great way to make policy.”

Since testing began, Uber cars have been recorded doing four out of the top five causes of collisions or injuries in the city – running red lights, going through stop signs, unsafe turns and failing to yield to pedestrians.

“These behaviours we’re seeing,” said Nicole Ferrara, executive director of advocacy group Walk San Francisco, “are some of the most dangerous behaviours in San Francisco that lead to traffic deaths and severe injuries.”

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