Uber self-driving car runs red light in San Fransciso

Occurred: December 2016

Uber’s self-driving car programme faced significant criticism and potential regulatory action after one of its vehicles was caught running a red light at moderate speed in San Francisco.

Given Uber self-driving vehicles have drivers and engineers as backups at the wheel of the car, it was unclear why nobody hit the brakes. 

The incident raised concerns about the safety of Uber’s autonomous technology, and led to a setback for Uber’s self-driving car programme. 

Prior to this, the programme had already been struggling, with reports suggesting that Uber rushed to launch new programs, modified its safety operations, and didn’t hit goals

The company was also criticised for taking shortcuts and rushing to get its self-driving cars on the road.

Shortly after the incident, California’s Attorney General demanded Uber cease its self-driving car pilot programme until the company filed for a permit to test its cars on state roads. 

This was followed by California's Department of Motor Vehicles announcing it was revoking the registrations of 16 Uber cars as they had not been properly marked as test vehicles.

Operator: Uber
Developer: Uber
Country: USA
Sector: Automotive
Purpose: Automate steering, acceleration, braking
Technology: Self-driving system
Issue: Safety; Accuracy/reliability
Transparency: Governance; Black box

Page info
Type: Incident
Published: March 2023