Uber is working with Volvo in specific markets, such as Pittsburgh and San Francisco (the latter without approval, according to SFist), to test autonomous vehicles. One might assume tests have been going fairly well, since there haven’t been many headlines about accidents or injuries. But maybe that’s partially thanks to dumb luck.
In the video above, you’ll see an autonomous Uber, one of the company’s Volvo XC90 SUVs, nonchalantly run a red light. It just cruises right through it without a worry in its robotic brain, which is kind of scary given that autonomous vehicles are supposed to be safer than cars with humans behind the wheel. Here’s the thing, though: we don’t quite know the full story.
A human might have been at error
All we have to go off of is this video, which doesn’t really confirm that the car is driving itself. It’s entirely plausible that a human was indeed in control and that the human driver is at fault here. Keep in mind, too, that the XC90 is equipped with technology that would force it to break if it senses an obstacle, like a human or bicyclist, so long as it’s traveling at low speeds. The car seems to be moving slow enough, so I’m not so sure the risk is as big as it looks — though had another vehicle started driving it’s possible an accident could have occurred.
The Verge transportation reporter Andrew J. Hawkins received a statement from Uber, but it still doesn’t provide much detail:
On the video showing Uber self-driving car blowing through a red light, a spokesperson says, "Safety is our top priority."/1
— Andrew J. Hawkins (@andyjayhawk) December 14, 2016
Scary, in any case.