Skip to Content
Smart cities

We’re learning more about Uber’s driverless technology, and it isn’t good

Before Uber’s fatal crash last week, the firm’s cars may have been struggling to travel long distances without humans taking the wheel.

The news: The New York Times says that in March, Uber’s safety drivers had to take over control of its robotic cars once every 13 miles. By comparison, recent numbers from Uber’s rival Waymo show that its drivers took over only once every 5,600 miles. Uber says the numbers aren’t a direct measure of safety.

Plus: Waymo CEO John Krafcik told the Wall Street Journal that he has “a lot of confidence” that his cars “would be robust and able to handle situations like that.”

Software fault? Thoma Hall, president of the lidar maker Velodyne, which supplies Uber with sensors, tells the BBC she’s “baffled” by the crash. “Our lidar can see perfectly well,” she says, adding that “it is up to the rest of the system to interpret and use the data to make decisions. We do not know how the Uber system of decision-making works.”

Bottom line: In the wake of the crash, Uber was already facing intense scrutiny about how safe its driverless cars really are. Now it looks as if the ride-hailer will need to worry about ongoing investigations by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

The inside story of how ChatGPT was built from the people who made it

Exclusive conversations that take us behind the scenes of a cultural phenomenon.

How Rust went from a side project to the world’s most-loved programming language

For decades, coders wrote critical systems in C and C++. Now they turn to Rust.

Design thinking was supposed to fix the world. Where did it go wrong?

An approach that promised to democratize design may have done the opposite.

Sam Altman invested $180 million into a company trying to delay death

Can anti-aging breakthroughs add 10 healthy years to the human life span? The CEO of OpenAI is paying to find out.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.