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Uber's Got Another Big Problem on Its Hands

Published On 03/17/2017 Published On 03/17/2017

Uber's got another mess on its hands in the wake of several controversies of late. But the latest wrench in the car service's wheels was an unexpected operational one: apparently the company's driverless cars bust after less than a mile, requiring, err, drivers to take over, according to a new report.

Recode obtained internal documents from the company that illustrate the issue. Uber measures rider experience in testing its self-driving pilot program, along several other metrics. One of those is "disengagements," aka "times a human has to take over for the computer." Those takeovers can mean anything from "critical interventions" like times when your car's about to hit a baby or crash into a gas station or just when the car is experiencing jerky movements, among other scenarios.

According to the documents, 43 cars Uber tested the week ending March 8 drove 20,354 miles, and one big metric, "miles per intervention," measured how many miles were driven before cars had to be taken over for any reason other than "accidental disengagements, end-of-route disengagements and early takeovers." After more than 20,000 total miles, the 43 cars averaged 0.8 miles per intervention, a slight decrease from 0.9 in January and 1 mile per intervention reached in the first week of February. Anyone who's driven more than a mile in their life can pretty quickly identify that as bad, and Johana Bhuiyan's report at Recode goes into far deeper detail on all of it, along with adding charts and helpful historical context for the numbers.

When reached by Thrillist, Uber declined to comment on the matter.

One big key to Uber's future success -- remember, the company's valuation at $62.5 billion has been contested and it definitely lost a lot of money last year -- was its self-driving car program. Uber's been testing out self-driving cars in Pittsburgh since last year, while its main competition, the Alphabet-owned (aka Google-owned) Waymo, has had theirs in the works since 2009. Uber's race to self-driving dominance has been a bumpy one though, with "open defiance" of the law in California and only just being approved for testing by the state's DMV this week, according to a company spokesperson -- on top of the fact that it's actually also still in a lawsuit with Waymo.

So...things look bad. But hey at least Dwyane Wade takes Uber, and the company's mentioned in practically every episode of the second season of Netflix's Love. Lovely.

H/T: Recode

Eric Vilas-Boas is a writer and editor at Thrillist. Follow him @e_vb_.

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