Self-driving technology companies suspend testing over virus fears

18 March 2020 - 08:27 By Reuters
An Argo AI modified Ford Fusion autonomous vehicle is seen driving along a street near the company's headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
An Argo AI modified Ford Fusion autonomous vehicle is seen driving along a street near the company's headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Image: Justin Merriman/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Self-driving technology companies, including Waymo, Cruise and Uber, have suspended autonomous car testing that involves backup drivers, joining corporate America to try to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Alphabet Inc unit Waymo said on Tuesday it was temporarily suspending robotaxi services in Phoenix that require a backup driver, but added that fully automated services would continue.

Waymo also said it was pausing self-driving tests in California, where 65 companies have active permits for autonomous tests with backup drivers.

“The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has been in contact with AV testing permit holders and there is every indication that they are adhering to federal, state and local public health recommendations,” a spokesperson for California's DMV said.

General Motors Co unit Cruise said it had suspended operations and closed all San Francisco facilities for three weeks. The test operators will be paid for any days they would have worked during this period, said Arden Hoffman, chief people officer at Cruise.

Argo, a unit of Ford Motor Co, said it had paused its vehicle testing operations, but added it had not experienced any significant impact due to coronavirus.

“Removing the human driver holds great promise for not only making our roads safer, but for helping our riders stay healthy in these uncertain times,” Waymo said in a blog post on Tuesday.

Toyota-backed Pony.ai said it had paused its public robotaxi service in Fremont and Irvine, California, for three weeks, but the company is testing cars in the Chinese cities of Beijing and Guangzhou.

Ride-hailing company Uber Technologies Inc said it would temporarily halt its test track and on-road track testing of self-driving vehicles for the time being.


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