Self-driving car news: Uber’s California permit expires, deadly Tesla crash linked to Autopilot?

Yesterday, we told you that Arizona’s libertarian-leaning, Trump-friendly governor had revoked Uber’s permit to test self-driving cars in the state after getting a gruesome reminder about the importance of regulation.

Today, we learn that something similar has happened in California–though in this case, it’s because Uber willingly let its permit expire. Meanwhile, Tesla’s controversial, semi-autonomous driving system, Autopilot, may be linked to another driver’s death.

First, Mashable reports on Uber’s decision not to renew its self-driving car permit in California:

Now, a letter from the California Department of Motor Vehicles to Uber’s autonomous vehicle program shows that the company has decided not to renew its testing permit. Its current permit will expire this weekend on March 31.

The letter, as seen below, says Uber was talking to the regulatory agency last week about the crash. Now if Uber decides to go ahead with testing in the state, it “will need to address any follow-up analysis or investigations from the recent crash in Arizona and may also require a meeting with the department.”

And elsewhere in California, a Tesla Model X was involved in a fatal collision near Mountain View (aka Google’s homebase). The automaker hasn’t revealed whether Autopilot was engaged at the time of the incident, but in a blog post, the company is already trying to shift attention away from its self-driving software by blaming California for not maintaining the highway:

  • We are currently working closely with the authorities to recover the logs from the computer inside the vehicle. Once that happens and the logs have been reviewed, we hope to have a better understanding of what happened.

  • Our data shows that Tesla owners have driven this same stretch of highway with Autopilot engaged roughly 85,000 times since Autopilot was first rolled out in 2015 and roughly 20,000 times since just the beginning of the year, and there has never been an accident that we know of. There are over 200 successful Autopilot trips per day on this exact stretch of road.

  • The reason this crash was so severe is that the crash attenuator, a highway safety barrier which is designed to reduce the impact into a concrete lane divider, had either been removed or crushed in a prior accident without being replaced. The following image shows what the barrier looked like when the crash attenuator was in proper condition, and what it looked like the day prior to the crash, based on dash cam footage from a witness of the accident who commutes daily past this location. We have never seen this level of damage to a Model X in any other crash.

According to Bloomberg, the National Transportation Safety Board is sending a team to Mountain View investigate.

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