Uber had issues prior to crash
The cars were having trouble driving through construction zones and next to tall vehicles, with Uber’s human back up drivers having to intervene far more frequently than the drivers of competing autonomous car projects.
Waymo, formerly the self-driving car project of Google, said that in tests on roads in California last year, its cars went an average of nearly 9,000 km before the driver had to take control from the computer to steer out of trouble.
As of March, Uber was struggling to meet its target of 20 km per “intervention” in Arizona, according to company documents obtained by The New York Times and two people familiar with the company’s operations in the Phoenix area but not permitted to speak publicly about it.
There was also mounting pressure to live up to a goal to offer a driverless car service by the end of the year and to impress top executives.
Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s chief executive, was expected to visit Arizona in April, and leaders of the company’s development group in the Phoenix area wanted to give him a glitch-free ride in an autonomous car.
Tech companies like Uber, Waymo and Lyft, as well as automakers like General Motors and Toyota, have spent billions developing self-driving cars in the belief that the market for them could one day be worth trillions of dollars.
On Monday, Uber halted autonomous car tests in Arizona, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto. It is not clear when the company will revive them.