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Uber’s Self-Driving Systems, Not Human Drivers, Missed At Least Six Red Lights In San Francisco

David Z. Morris

Continuing a week-plus of embarrassments and bad news for Uber, the New York Times on Friday reported that traffic violations by the company's self-driving cars were caused by problems with the cars' mapping programs, and not, as the company had previously claimed, by human error.

The news came from two anonymous employees who spoke to the Times, and from internal documents. The mapping program failed to spot not just one red light, but at least six.

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After video of one of the violations surfaced in December, the company not only blamed and suspended the human monitoring the system, but doubled down. The supposedly human-caused red-light violation, they said, "is why we believe so much in making the roads safer by building self-driving Ubers."

And while running red lights was the most egregious problem with the cars, they were also unable to safely navigate bike lanes.

Worse still, the apparently flawed system was deployed against explicit demands by California state regulators that they cease operations. Uber argued that the rules simply didn't apply to them.

Uber withdrew its self-driving cars from San Francisco a week later, after the California DMV revoked the vehicles' registrations.

We have reached out to the company for any response to the Times' report and will update this story as needed.

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