New board will scrutinize Uber’s self-driving development

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A new group will keep tabs on safety developments in Uber’s self-driving vehicle division.

The company has formed an independent board composed of six outsiders. It’s charged with reviewing and advising executives in the company’s advanced-technology division on best practices for testing and deploying self-driving technology on Uber’s platform.

Formation of the outside Self-Driving Safety and Responsibility Board was a recommendation from an external review that Uber commissioned in the wake of a deadly crash in March 2018, in which a self-driving test vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian.

“We believe that this panel of outside industry experts will offer valuable independent advice as Uber ATG leads the safe development and deployment of self-driving technology,” Uber said in a statement.

The board’s findings and recommendations will not be made public, a company spokeswoman said.

Board members include Shailen Bhatt, president of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America; Adrian Lund, former president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety; Victoria Nneji, robotics fellow and assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Duke University.

Also on the board is physician and former NHTSA chief Jeffrey Runge, now president of Biologue Inc., a North Carolina biodefense and medical preparedness consulting firm.

Rounding out the panel are two members who bring an aviation-minded perspective that Uber wanted on the board: David Carbaugh, former chief pilot of flight operations safety at Boeing, and George Snyder, president of GHS Aviation Group.

Borrowing safety practices from the aviation industry was a key part of findings in a report from law firm LeClairRyan, issued in October 2018. In particular, the firm recommended Uber establish a culture in which employees can submit safety concerns within a system similar to the Aviation Safety Reporting Program that the Federal Aviation Administration created in 1974.

Such a system might have provided a structure for executives to consider warnings such as the one in which whistleblower Robbie Miller alerted the company that its self-driving test cars were “routinely in accidents resulting in damage” and raised other safety concerns.

He sent an email outlining those concerns just days before an Uber self-driving test vehicle, under the control of a distracted human test driver, struck and killed Elaine Herzberg in Tempe, Ariz., in March 2018.

Nat Beuse, Uber’s head of safety and a former NHTSA official, put together the new board, which will meet quarterly.

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