The Good News
Minibusses without drivers are being tested on the Campus of the Charité in Berlin (Mitte). For this pilot project, the BVG and the Charité are working together with EasyMile and Navya, with a total of four busses having been deployed. From April 2018 onwards the Campus at the Virchow-Klinikum will also be serviced by these autonomous minibusses. The busses fit six or eleven passengers, depending on the vehicle, and the project has received € 3.2 million in funding from the Federal Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.
These routes look as follows:
The Uber News
Although Uber itself and other car makers such as Toyota paused their own autonomous vehicle programs after the accident in Arizona, European car manufacturers Volkswagen and PSA have commented that they would not be halting their own developments. Volkswagen CEO Matthias Müller stated that VW is aware of the enormous challenges present to make autonomous driving a reality, be they legislative or technological. PSA, in turn, started testing self-driving cars in French cities in 2015 and will be continuing as planned.
Uber, however, has been barred from testing its autonomous vehicles in Arizona. Although the Governor Doug Ducey initially pushed for carmakers coming to the state by signing an executive order in 2015 and General Motors, Waymo, Uber, and Intel hearing the call by settling there, he has now directed the Arizona Department of Transportation to “suspend” Uber’s self-driving testing access.
In addition, the New York Times reported that even before the crash, Uber had been struggling to meet its target of 13 miles per “intervention” by the human driver and that the cars had trouble with driving through construction zones or next to large vehicles. By contrast, Waymo said that its own vehicles went 5.600 miles (on average) before a driver had to intervene. The CEO of Waymo, John Krafcik, told Forbes at the National Automobile Dealers Association conference in Las Vegas on Saturday that “We’re very confident that our car could have handled that situation”. Krafcik added, “it’s what we have designed this system to do in situations just like that”. The accident marks another setback for Uber in their competition with Waymo, as in February 2018 they agreed to give the company about $245 million in closely held stock to cut short a trade-secret theft trial.