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Uber's self-driving cars are having problems 'seeing' bike lanes on busy SF city streets


Uber's self-driving cars are having a problem accurately recognizing bike lanes on the San Francisco streets they're currently cruising for a self-driving test run, a company spokesperson admitted in a statement to The Guardian Monday.

The potentially dangerous issue was first raised by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition after a member claimed it witnessed an Uber self-driving car make an “unsafe right-hook-style turn through a bike lane.”

Working out the auto-bugs

The spokesperson went on to say the ride-sharing company already has a team of engineers working to fix the autonomous flaw that could do harm to two-wheeled commuters. 

In the meantime, the Uber cars' human drivers -- who are required to sit in the driver seat and take control in the event of an emergency -- have been instructed to manually steer cars across bicycle lanes.

San Francisco Bicycle Coalition
(Image: sfbike.org)

This SF Bicycle Coalition illustration show how the Uber self-drivers put bicyclists at risk.

Autonomous Uber driving almost as bad as humans

In the week since launching on the streets of San Francisco, Uber's semi-autonomous cars have been reportedly caught blowing stop signs, running red lights, failing to yield to pedestrians and now ignoring bike lanes. 

It's all very "human driver" behavior -- but if the idea is to eventually hand this whole driving thing over to faultless artificial intelligence, these early results by Uber could be seen as disappointing.

Self-Driving Uber running red light

WATCH  | An Uber self-driver rolling through a red light

Google Self-Driving Cars-Crash
(Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority via AP)

Google's and Tesla's cars have been at fault in actual self-driving and Autopilot accidents this year. Though Uber has yet to cause a collision, it's cars have traveled fewer autonomous miles, so it may just be a matter of time.

Uber ignoring order to take cars off the roads

Since Uber's cars have a human driver behind the wheel, the company launched them in San Francisco without a special self-driving permits. 

After footage of what looked like an Uber semi-autonomous Volvo running a red light got attention online, the state of California last week ordered Uber to take its cars off the road or face "legal action" by the state DMV.

Uber has yet to respond to the state's order.

(AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Uber's self-driving cars do have drivers. So they are technically semi-autonomous.

Uber might have a money-losing problem

Uber is on pace to lose almost $2.8 billion this year, according to The Information.

Translation: Uber is actually shedding less money than it had been in recent quarters, thanks in part to the sale of its failing UberChina. But the private company is still spending a lot in recruitment and ads in the United States.

It could be facing a pricey legal battle to keep its new self-driving cars on the road.

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