Uber Advanced Technologies Group has been issued a permit that would allow the company to put its autonomous vehicles back on public roads in California nearly two years after the company scaled back its testing program following a fatal crash in Arizona that killed a pedestrian.
Uber doesn't have immediate plans to put its autonomous vehicles on public roads in San Francisco, where it was previously testing. The company says it will notify key local, state and federal stakeholders before it returns to the city.
"San Francisco is a great city to gather key learnings for self-driving technology given its complex and ever-changing environment. While we do not have an update as to exactly when we'll resume autonomous testing, receiving our testing permit through the California DMV is a critical step towards that end in Uber's home city," an Uber spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
The permit, which is issued by the California Department of Motor Vehicles, is the latest step by Uber's self-driving unit to ramp up a program that appeared destined to end just 18 months ago.
Uber ATG ended all testing on public roads after one of its vehicles struck and killed pedestrian Elaine Herzberg in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe. Uber ATG was testing its self-driving vehicles in the Phoenix area, Toronto, Pittsburgh and San Francisco. At the time, the company let go all 100 of its self-driving car operators in Pittsburgh and San Francisco and rumors circulated that the company wanted to sell its self-driving unit.
Uber ATG resumed in December 2018 on-road testing of its self-driving vehicles in Pittsburgh, following the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation's decision to authorize the company to put its autonomous vehicles on public roads.
Uber has also started mapping Washington, D.C., ahead of plans to begin testing its self-driving vehicles in the city this year. Initially, there will be three Uber vehicles mapping the area, a company spokesperson said. These vehicles, which will be manually driven and have two trained employees inside, will collect sensor data using a top-mounted sensor wing equipped with cameras and a spinning lidar. The data will be used to build high-definition maps. The data also will be used for Uber’s virtual simulation and test track testing scenarios.
Uber intends to launch autonomous vehicles in Washington, D.C. before the end of 2020.