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REVIEW: Self-Driving Ubers Crossing Bike Lanes

Yesterday, we featured an almost 5 star ride in a self-driving Uber in Pittsburgh. Today we received a review that has a Pittsburgh resident concerned.

His concern led him to notify Uber that he had observed a self-driving vehicle do the same dangerous maneuver three times over the last two weeks.

Unfortunately, Pittsburgh is not the only place where self-driving Ubers have struggled navigating bike lanes. This article in the Guardian talked about the problems these vehicles were having in San Francisco (the article was last updated this summer). Although the problem does appear to be a little different than what Mr. Tobin was describing. In his review on DriverlessRatings, he described the problem like this: 

"Three times in the past two weeks I have been behind a self-driving Uber as it went to turn from Pittsburgh's East Ohio Street to 16th Street. All three times, the Uber entered the bike lane as if it was a turning lane and drove down it a bit before stopping at the traffic light (when red) then turning."

In the article in the Guardian, the problem was described as the self-driving Ubers crossing bike paths suddenly when making turns. The problem Mr. Tobin describes is one where they are using the bike paths for an extended time. Both point to a problem with the vehicle recognizing it is a bike line. 

Thus far, we are not aware of any bicyclists being harmed due to this specific problem. No reports have been filed with the California Department of Motor Vehicles  (Uber Advanced Technologies does have one report but unrelated to the issue discussed here). Uber did respond with a comment for the Guardian. They wrote:

Uber spokeswoman Chelsea Kohler told the Guardian in an email that “engineers are continuing to work on the problem”, and said that the company has instructed drivers to take control when approaching right turns on a street with a bike lane. 

It appears that engineers are not taking control of the vehicle in Pittsburgh when approaching right turns on a street where there is a bike lane. It also seems that Uber has not yet solved this problem.  

It has long been discussed that bicyclists and bike lanes pose a unique challenge for self-driving vehicles and many companies pursuing Level 5 autonomy have acknowledged the challenge.

The transition from manual cars to driverless ones will undoubtedly come with large challenges such as this one. Thank you Mr. Tobin for bringing this to our attention as well as notifying the company behind the vehicle. Hopefully they take appropriate action and resolve this issue so we can see more reviews like Ms. Li's  yesterday.

Image credit: Vivien Li


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