clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

What Uber’s decision to pull its self-driving testing from Arizona means

It’s hardly the end, but it’s clearly a setback.

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi Nathan Congleton / NBC / NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Uber has ended its self-driving car tests in Arizona in the wake of a fatal crash there involving one of its semi-autonomous vehicles. Its self-driving testing on public U.S. roads continues to be on hold while a federal agency investigates the crash.

What does that mean for Uber’s broader self-driving ambitions? It’s hardly the end, but it’s clearly a setback.

Uber said it will refocus on San Francisco, where the company is headquartered, and Pittsburgh, where its self-driving team is based. However, Uber chose not to reapply for a California testing permit as of the end of March, and would need to do so to restart testing.

The decision to pull operations from Arizona could have some effect later. If Uber eventually launches a self-driving network, it will have one less place to launch. Arizona is not a particularly populous state, but its relaxed regulations have attracted many self-driving companies to test there, and it could be an early-adopter hub for self-driving ride-hail services. Uber may even have to start the crucial process of mapping Arizona’s roads again from scratch, which was already tricky.

Meanwhile, Uber’s rival Waymo — formerly Google’s self-driving car program, which has the most advanced self-driving tech on public roads — has doubled down on its presence in Arizona. Waymo has already applied for a permit to run a ride-share network there, which could now launch before Uber. That’s not the best thing for Uber. Waymo is also testing in Atlanta, San Francisco, Detroit, Phoenix and Kirkland, Wash.

The more practical and immediate effect is that Uber is laying off 300 car operators, who were driving around in Uber’s semi-autonomous Volvos in Arizona before the crash.

This article originally appeared on

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.