An Uber manager working in the autonomous vehicle unit had warned the company of the inherent risks under the current self-driving protocol of their cars being tested at the time before an Uber self-driving car struck a pedestrian while the back-up driver was watching TV on her phone.
Then-manager, Robbie Miller, who left the company shortly thereafter, outlined a number of specific incidents and issues with Uber’s self-driving program. He attributed these to software used in the Volvo SUV (involved in the Tempe accident), lack of training for human back-up drivers, as well as the lack of focus some employees had on their jobs.
“This is usually the result of poor behavior of the operator or the AV technology. A car was damaged nearly every other day in February. We shouldn’t be hitting things every 15,000 miles. Repeated infractions for poor driving rarely results in termination. Several of the drivers appear to not have been properly vetted or trained,” wrote in his email to Uber executives.
Before working for Uber, Miller had been at competitor Waymo, who just announced the first self-driving taxi service in Phoenix, AZ. Uber had suspended their plans to introduce such a service after the Tempe incident. Miller claimed that Waymo would have had a much different, and safer approach, to dealing with the accidents he was concerned about.
While Miller never received a direct response to his email before leaving the company, Uber reportedly addressed some of their issues in their company review that was compiled after the fatal crash.
In 2016, Uber knew of a technology flaw involving intersections with bike lanes, yet still put them into testing in San Francisco, instructing back-up drivers to take over control when approaching these intersections, which demonstrates a pattern of disregard for safety of people in the streets.