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Uber has said self-driving cars are essential to its future, but the ride-hailing firm’s autonomy division, the Advanced Technologies Group (ATG), has long struggled to make significant progress toward delivering a vehicle that can safely and efficiently move passengers and goods, obviating the need to give the bulk of each fare to a human driver.
Part of the problem is that self-driving is really hard to make happen: Waymo has spent more than a decade on the tech, and just this month started offering a truly driverless service in the Phoenix suburbs. But Uber ATG has faced more struggles than its competitors, including the March 2018 crash in which it killed a pedestrian in Arizona, ongoing internal strife, and unreliable technology.
Those issues have left some Uber investors frustrated and outside experts pessimistic about the division’s prospects.
“I would not be surprised if Uber just pulls the plug on the whole program within the next 12 months,” Guidehouse Insights research analyst Sam Abuelsamid told Business Insider in September. Unless, he said, Uber manages to sell of the division.
Reports published by Business Insider and other outlets over the past two years, based on conversations with Uber ATG employees and internal documents, have helped explain why the project has failed to live up to its promise.
To catch you up with the chaos and controversy surrounding Uber’s efforts to build self-driving cars, we’ve laid out everything we know about ATG, below.
Are you a current or former Uber employee? Do you have an opinion about what it’s like to work there? Contact this reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Signal at 646-768-4712, or via his encrypted email address email@example.com.
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The former head of ATG stole trade secrets from Waymo
Anthony Levandowski worked at Google’s self-driving-car project, now called Waymo, before quitting in early 2016 to found Otto, an autonomous-truck startup that Uber bought a few months later. Levandowski then became the head of Uber’s autonomous-vehicle program, which had launched the year before.
In 2017, Waymo sued Uber, alleging the ride-hailing firm had acquired Otto to access technical documents that Levandowski had taken with him when he left Google. Waymo didn’t name Levandowski as a defendant in its suit (which the companies settled in 2018), but the Department of Justice in 2019 indicted the engineer on 33 counts of trade-secret theft and attempted trade-secret theft.
Levandowski pled guilty to one of those counts and in August received an 18-month prison sentence, to start after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A fatal crash exposed tech issues
In March 2018, an Uber’s self-driving test vehicle hit and killed a woman in Arizona. It was the first known fatal accident involving a vehicle meant to be fully autonomous.
People who worked for Uber ATG told Business Insider that before the crash, Uber’s automated-driving tech had trouble understanding its surroundings and predicting how nearby objects would move. Uber had also …read more
Source:: Businessinsider – Tech