Uber lays off 100 safety drivers as it scales back self-driving tests
Uber is laying off its safety drivers in Pittsburgh and San Francisco—about 100 people in total. It’s the latest sign that Uber is scaling back its testing operations as it tries to move beyond the March crash that killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. Uber’s testing operations have been suspended nationwide since that fatality.
It already laid off its safety drivers in the Phoenix metropolitan area—previously the company’s most significant testing location. And the company decided not to renew its permit to test self-driving cars in California. But Uber says it’s still aiming to resume testing in the Pittsburgh area.
While about 100 Uber safety drivers are officially being laid off, Uber expects many of them to apply for 55 newly created ‘mission specialist’ jobs doing similar work. Previously, Uber had separate teams testing on public roads and on private test tracks. Now, Uber wants a single team of drivers to perform testing in both cases and to provide them with additional training to better aid Uber engineers in improving the company’s self-driving software.
The larger picture here is that Uber is scaling back its testing operations in an effort to get quality over quantity. Before the crash, Uber was rushing to get the technology ready for a product launch, racking up miles to compete with rivals like Alphabet’s Waymo. Now, Uber is more focused on getting the technical foundations right—even if that means it takes longer to get a product to market.