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Pittsburgh Pink Slips: Uber's Self-Driving Program Flops

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Ride-sharing company Uber has laid off self-driving car test drivers in Pittsburgh, four months after a fatal crash involving one of its robot cars in March.

Uber has laid off about 100 autonomous vehicle operators in Pittsburgh and eliminated these positions, Quartz first reported.

According to the report, the company held a meeting with the autonomous vehicle operators on Wednesday to inform them that their jobs were being terminated.

Uber plans to replace these jobs with about 55 so-called "mission specialists," technical specialists trained on both on-road and advanced test-track conditions. Laid-off drivers can also apply for these positions.

A spokesperson for Uber said the company remains committed to building safe self-driving technology and looks forward "to return to public roads in the coming months."

Uber temporarily stopped testing of its self-driving cars across North America after one of its vehicles struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona on March 18.

The car hit 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, who was pushing a bicycle across a road at night. Herzberg later died at a hospital.

The vehicle was in autonomous mode at the time of the crash, but a safety driver was behind the wheel as a back-up to intervene if the autonomous system failed.

A police report released in June said that the crash was "entirely avoidable."

The safety driver behind the wheel of the self-driving Uber, Rafaela Vasquez, was streaming a television show on her smartphone up until about the time of the fatal crash, according to the police report.

In May, Uber closed down its self-driving vehicle program in Arizona after the state barred it from road-testing the technology following the crash. About 300 test drivers were affected in Arizona, which had grown to become Uber's largest testing ground.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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