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Toyota Takes Self-Driving Cars Off Public Roads Following Fatal Uber Accident

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Following a fatal accident involving a self-driving Uber car, Toyota has announced it is temporarily taking its entire autonomous vehicle fleet off public roads. NuTonomy, a self-driving startup, is also doing the same.

Toyota’s fleet drives itself on public roads near the company’s research center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and in the San Francisco area. Though safety drivers and engineers always tag along for the ride to take control whenever necessary, that’s also the same arrangement that was used in the Uber vehicle.

“We’ve told our drivers to take a couple of days off so we can assess the situation,” said Toyota spokesman Rick Bourgoise.

Though other companies, such as Ford and GM, are electing not to suspend their public road testing, it’s no surprise on the surface that Toyota made such a quick decision. The automaker was recently reported to be in talks with Uber about using its autonomous driving system, and in the past has said it won’t release autonomous systems until it is sure they are “absolutely safe.”

However, Toyota is supposedly not doing this out of concerns over autonomous driving technology. Another spokesman for the company, Brian Lyons, stated that testing on public roads had been suspended because “we feel the incident may have an emotional effect on our test drivers” and that it is “out of consideration for the human drivers who sit behind the wheel with the duty of overriding the autonomous system if something goes wrong.”

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“We just want to give our drivers time to reflect about how important their jobs are,” Lyons added, before saying that Toyota is intentionally waiting to see what the police investigation into the incident reveals.

Nonetheless, the automaker will continue to test autonomous vehicles at three closed proving grounds. Two are located in Ann Arbor and working with the University of Michigan, and the third is situated at a former naval weapons station in Concord, California, known as GoMentum Station.

Lyft and Waymo, meanwhile, have declined to comment on the status of their testing program, and state officials in Arizona, where the fatality took place, says no changes to its autonomous testing regulations are imminent.

Clearly, though the incident yesterday is believed to be the first pedestrian death associated with an autonomous vehicle, the willingness to create a self-driving transportation network is undiminished.

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News Sources: Automotive News and Bloomberg