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March 27, 2018

Uber suspends autonomous vehicle testing in Pennsylvania, other states

Decision comes on heels of tragic crash in Tempe, Arizona

Ride-sharing giant Uber has "indefinitely suspended" its ambitious autonomous vehicle testing programs in Pennsylvania, California, Arizona and Toronto after a self-driving car fatally struck a pedestrian in Tempe earlier this month.

The decision was noted in a letter sent to Uber by the California Department of Motor Vehicles, which clarified that the company would have to reapply for another permit if it wishes to resume autonomous vehicle testing. Any future application in California would have to thoroughly address the findings of an investigation into the Tempe crash.

On March 19, a 49-year-old woman was killed when the self-driving car struck her during an overnight ride. A safety driver was inside the vehicle but was unable to prevent the collision.

Investigations into the crash, one of several that have dampened public trust in autonomous vehicle testing, will be carried out by several agencies including the National Transportation Safety Board and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

A spokeswoman for Uber told Ars Technica the company's autonomous vehicles are not operating anywhere at this time.

Uber is among several companies — including Google, Tesla, Apple and Ford — leading the charge in the development of autonomous vehicles. In Pittsburgh, where Uber has a test track for self-driving cars, the company has already deployed a fleet of vehicles that can be hailed by customers, with a safety driver up front.

Pennsylvania lawmakers have in the past expressed their desire for the state to become a proving ground for autonomous cars.

State officials have not yet publicly commented on the crash in Tempe and the status of its arrangement with Uber moving forward.