Uber is trying its best to develop its own line of self-driving cars. The good news is that its vehicles are getting a lot of time out on the road. The bad news is that they still need a lot of help from their on-board human safety drivers.
That information comes from a new story on Recode, which obtained documents from Uber’s autonomous driving unit that showed the progress the company is making in that area. Uber has put self-driving vehicles on the road in parts of Arizona, California and Pennsylvania. The documents show that their cars had a total of 5,000 miles on the road per week in January, but that number increased to 22,000 miles a week by the beginning of March.
However, while the company’s cars are getting more data and experience, they still need their human back up most of the time. The data shows that during the week of March 8, Uber’s 43 active “autonomous” cars went less than one mile before their human safety drivers had to take over for any reason. Those reasons can be small, such as a car that overshoots a turn or one that drives in bad weather.
Drivers also have to take over when the situation is really bad, such as a car that’s about to hit a person or one that can cause over $5,000 in property damage. Uber labeled these kinds of issues as “critical” interventions, and last week the company’s documents said that drivers took over every 200 miles when that kind of issue came up.
The overall lesson is that Uber still has a long wait to go before its self-driving cars can really be called “self-driving” with no human aid. Hopefully, the more time that these cars spend on the road will help improve its track record. We just hope that their human riders will take over before a “critical” issue becomes a real one.