Uber CEO Compares Self-Driving Cars To 'Student Drivers'

Illustration for article titled Uber CEO Compares Self-Driving Cars To Student Drivers
Photo: Eric Risberg (AP)

Barely a month removed from a jarring incident that involved one of its self-driving cars striking and killing a pedestrian, Uber’s new CEO said Thursday that autonomous driving technology needs more time because, right now, self-driving cars are just “student drivers.” Uh.

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In an appearance on NBC’s Today show, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi asserted that, “Ultimately, self-driving cars will be safer than humans.”

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“But right now self-driving cars are learning,” he went on, according to the Wall Street Journal. “They’re student drivers.”

That’ll surely inspire confidence among the show’s viewers, likely comprised of the very people who currently say they don’t trust autonomous cars. Who enjoys sharing the road with scared-as-shit student drivers?

Here’s more from the Journal:

Mr. Khosrowshahi told “Today” show host Savannah Guthrie that the company was working with investigators to determine whether the ride-hailing firm’s technology was at fault. He also said he is reviewing the company’s safety practices ranging from driver training to software.

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I suppose it’s a less aggressive stance than outright blaming the driver, which Tesla opted for Wednesday in discussing a fatal crash involving a Model X that was operating in the vehicle’s semi-autonomous Autopilot mode.

But automakers and self-driving car developers are facing an onslaught of skepticism following last month’s fatal crashes. It’s a sensitive moment, right as more and more companies dump billions into developing self-driving cars to, they hope, be used for commercial purposes.

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Maybe Khosrowshahi’s comment won’t get much play by tomorrow. But I can’t imagine the comparison was warmly received by Today’s audience—especially for those who became acquainted with autonomous driving technology only after the recent fatal crashes.

Senior Reporter, Jalopnik/Special Projects Desk

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DISCUSSION

I don’t see the problem with this statement about student drivers. This is the whole point of “real world testing” that the AV industry is going through at the moment.

Of course the cars are student drivers, they are learning how to drive autonomously in the real world.