In December, Consumer Watchdog led the fight against Uber’s illegal testing of robot cars in San Francisco without the required permits. The cars were seen driving through red lights. When the Department of Motor vehicles revoked the robot cars’ registrations, Uber moved them to Arizona, where there are no testing regulations.
“Companies like Uber are using our public roads as their private laboratories,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog Privacy Project Director. “There must be complete transparency and accountability about what they are doing, which clearly can threaten public safety.”
Earlier this month the SAVe Campaign asked eighteen automakers and developers of self-driving cars, including Uber, to take responsibility for failures in their automated and autonomous vehicle technology. Only Volvo accepted the challenge and agreed to accept responsibility for their robot cars at some levels of automation.
Tempe, Az. police ticketed the driver of the other vehicle in the Uber crash. Nonetheless, Consumer Watchdog said, the incident raised the question of who is at fault when a robot car causes a crash.
Consumer Watchdog said that while the driver of the other vehicle may have technically been at fault in the Arizona Uber crash, it could well be the case that the robot vehicle did not behave as a human-driven car would have, contributing to the crash.
“Self-driving car manufactures and developers must accept responsibility when their automated and autonomous technologies fail,” said Simpson. “If Uber is finally serious about becoming a responsible corporate citizen, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick must take the SAVe pledge immediately.”
“The interaction between robot cars and human-driven cars is an area of serious concern and requires research,” said Simpson. “That’s why all the data about crashes must be made public.”
Uber has finally received permits to test in California. It will be required to file public crash reports when an incident occurs and annual disengagement reports detailing when the robot technology fails. The reports are posted to the DMV website.