The Wall Street Journal: Uber lays off autonomous-car test drivers in Pittsburgh, San Francisco

Uber Technologies Inc. is cutting more than 100 test-driver jobs from its autonomous vehicle program in Pittsburgh and San Francisco months after a fatal crash involving one of the robot cars.

Uber on Wednesday explained the move by saying it wants to focus on more highly trained drivers that it is dubbing “mission specialists,” who can man the autonomous vehicles on both test tracks and on public roads. The company in May eliminated about 300 similar jobs in Tempe, Ariz. — the site of the crash that killed a pedestrian — and closed its operations there after the state’s governor barred further testing of the vehicles on public roads.

Read: Uber HR executive resigns amid allegations she dismissed racial-bias complaints: report

Uber has been doing an extensive review of the self-driving vehicle program since the Tempe pedestrian was struck and killed as she crossed the street. Investigators later said the sole vehicle operator, whose job was to be a fail-safe for when the cars act erratically, was streaming a television show on her phone, contributing to the accident.

Self-driving vehicle experts have questioned the effectiveness of Uber’s technology and its move in late 2017 to stop using a second safety driver that it had previously stationed in the front passenger seat of its autonomous test cars. The company had disabled an automatic emergency braking system on the Volvo involved in the crash, which put added responsibility on the operator to stop or swerve the vehicle in the case of an obstacle, according to a report from federal investigators last month.

An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.

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