Uber testing new, self-driving cars

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PITTSBURGH (CBS) Uber gave "CBS This Morning" an exclusive look inside its self-driving test facility in Pittsburgh. Uber is trying to make self-driving technology safer after a series of delays and setbacks, including a deadly accident last year involving an autonomous vehicle.

On its closely guarded 54-acre facility, Uber is building its return to autonomous driving after the March 2018 crash where a self-driving Uber hit and killed a woman crossing a street in Tempe, Arizona.

The number of people who said they were afraid to ride in a self-driving car rose to 71 percent in 2019. That's up from 63 percent a year ago, according to an AAA survey.

Eric Meyhofer leads Uber's autonomous driving unit. CBS' Kris Van Cleave asked Meyhofer if he thought the improvements to technology could help keep that type of accident from happening again.

Meyhofer said, "I think that, yes." He added, "It's a little enthusiastic and maybe presumptuous to think that there will never be an accident in a self-driving car. It's inevitable and there will be."

The fatal crash last year halted Uber's self-driving car program as the company conducted a top-to-bottom safety review. They added a second safety-driver and technology to monitor them for distraction.

Uber resumed limited road testing in Pittsburgh last December, but most of the development work is happening on the site of an old steel mill. The cars are cautious. They operate at 25 mph or less, allowing more decision time, sometimes more than a human driver would need.

Even Uber admits they sometimes fail tests.

Meyhofer said, "Our approach isn't going to be, 'It's ready, hey everybody, it's ready, trust us.' Our approach is, it's not ready yet. This vehicle is not ready yet. We believe that this vehicle can do it. But today, it isn't there."

Ford, Google's Waymo and other companies are also testing self-driving vehicles.