Uber Will Withdraw Its Self-Driving Cars From Arizona

About 300 employees will be out of work.

Kristoffer Tripplaar/Sipa USA

Uber is shutting down testing of self-driving cars in Arizona following a fatal crash in March. In an internal email obtained by Ars Technica, Uber executive Eric Meyhofer said the company would shift its focus to Pittsburgh, Sacramento, and San Francisco. Uber's autonomous-car testing program has been on hold since the crash.

About 300 Uber employees in Arizona will lose their jobs as a result of the shutdown, reports the Arizona Republic. They were notified of their termination around 9:00 a.m. Wednesday, the paper said. The full shutdown of Uber's Arizona self-driving car operations is expected to take several weeks.

Uber first brought its self-driving cars to Arizona in December 2016, following a spat with the California Department of Motor Vehicles over licensing. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey welcomed Uber at the time. Uber found a way around California's stricter regulations, and Ducey was able to score a political win.

After one of its autonomous cars struck pedestrian Elaine Herzberg, Uber suspended testing nationwide. The company described this as standard procedure for such situations at the time. But Gov. Ducey soon suspended Uber's testing permit, kicking the company off Arizona's roads indefinitely.

In the internal email, Uber executive Meyhofer said the company is "actively working" to resume testing of self-driving cars in Pittsburgh this summer. Uber is also in talks with the California DMV, governor's office, and the cities of Sacramento and San Francisco about resuming tests on public roads.

"We're committed to self-driving technology and look forward to returning to public roads in the coming months," Uber said in a statement. "In the meantime, we remain focused on our top-to-bottom safety review, having brought on former NTSB Chair Christopher Hart to advise us on our overall safety culture."

This isn't the end for self-driving cars in Arizona. Waymo plans to launch a ride-hailing service in Phoenix using its autonomous cars later this year. The former Google self-driving car project, which sued Uber over alleged trade-secrets theft, is taking full advantage of its rival's troubles and building up a substantial lead in the race to deploy autonomous cars on a commercial scale.