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Are Uber's Self-Driving Cars Driving Like Asshats Around Pittsburgh? [Updated]

Photo: Jared Wickerman/AP
Photo: Jared Wickerman/AP

Pittsburgh is Uber’s self-driving-car testbed, hosting the company’s “Advanced Technology Center” and dozens of its self-driving “pilot program” Ford Fusions. Now, according to website Quartz, there are reports of these self-driving cars causing all sorts of ruckus in the PGH.

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According to the business site, on September 24th, an Uber self-driving test car was involved in an accident near in the company’s tech center in Pittsburgh, and more recently—on the 26th—the website points to a new video allegedly showing an Uber autonomous car going the wrong way down a one-way street.

The person who spotted this possibly-lost Uber was Nathan Stachelek, whose Facebook description reads:

Driverless car went down a one way the wrong way. Driver had to turn car around. hahaha

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There’s no way to tell if the Uber was in self-driving mode or if a human was at the wheel, but I called up a representative from the ride-hailing company, and she told me there were no logs of an Uber car driving itself the wrong way down a one-way street.

The representative went on, saying the engineer in the passenger’s seat and the “safety driver” at the helm not only would have taken over in such a situation, but that it is literally their job to point out when the self-driving tech fails to obey traffic laws—that’s the whole point of the pilot program.

The fact that there aren’t any logs of such an incident, she said, makes her think this was most likely driver error (perhaps a driver using the one-way to turn-around).

Uber’s representative did acknowledge the accident on the 24th, however, but said a driver in another car (perhaps on his or her cell phone) had rear-ended the Fusion while the latter was at a stop. So this was human error.

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Of course, Uber does have incentive to tell the world everything is going swell— lest its investors get nervous— but a short video showing the car doing a turnaround on a one-way, and a small fender-bender possibly caused by a texting millennial?

I don’t think Pittsburghers should be alarmed quite yet.

Update (7 October, 2016 3:30 EST):

Uber has confirmed that the vehicle from the video above was not in self-driving mode during the one-way incident.

Sr. Technical Editor, Jalopnik. Always interested in hearing from auto engineers—email me. Cars: Willys CJ-2A ('48), Jeep J10 ('85), Jeep Cherokee ('79, '91, '92, '00), Jeep Grand Cherokee 5spd ('94).

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DISCUSSION

I live in Pittsburgh. First and foremost they would be driving like Jagoffs, not asshats. Second, I see them driving all over and I’ve never seen any major malfunctions other than the fact that they drive incredibly slowly. Think grandma coming home from church slow. They also have a tendency to slam on their brakes when someone is standing on a median waiting to cross the road, something that happens a decent amount in Pittsburgh, especially on Liberty ave.

They will get to where they need to be, I have no doubt but I’m not sure I appreciate being used as partof their experiment. Just my 2 cents.