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Uber announces self-driving car partnership with Toyota months after deadly Tempe crash

Posted at 4:16 PM, Aug 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-27 23:28:16-04

Uber is teaming up with Toyota to build self-driving cars for its ride-hailing service after its efforts to do it alone were derailed by allegations of theft and a fatal collision.

Toyota is also investing $500 million in Uber as part of the alliance announced Monday.

The deal will aim to combine the best features from the two companies' work on autonomous vehicles into cars that will be picking up Uber riders in 2021.

The deal also will help both the Japanese automaker and Uber spread out the cost of designing and building the complex systems, which use computers, cameras, radar and laser sensors to guide the self-driving vehicles. And it will help them compete against rivals General Motors and Google's Waymo, which experts say are leading the autonomous-vehicle race.

The Toyota partnership comes five months after Uber put its entire self-driving program on hold following a deadly crash in Tempe.

49-year-old Elaine Herzberg was hit and killed in March by an Uber vehicle in autonomous mode while crossing the street near Mill Avenue and Curry Road.

The National Transportation Safety Board found the vehicle's emergency braking had been disabled in favor of input from the human backup driver.

A report on the crash by the Tempe Police Department found the driver had been streaming a television show before the crash.

Uber has since pulled its self-driving cars out of Arizona, costing 300 jobs, and suspended testing in other cities. In July, Uber took a step toward relaunching autonomous vehicle testing in Pittsburgh. The company said it put a handful of vehicles back on the road with some safety modifications to the cars and driver training. But for now, the cars won't be free of human control or respond to ride-hailing calls.

Uber's expansion into self-driving cars suffered another setback last year when a Google spin-off accused it of stealing its technology. Uber paid $245 million to settle that case.