Uber reportedly reduced the number of sensors on its autonomous cars

Less LiDAR can result in a blind zone, which may have contributed to the fatal accident in Arizona.

Uber is facing some intense scrutiny after one of its self-driving cars struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona ten days ago. The company (along with it's partner, NVIDIA) has stopped testing its autonomous vehicle in cities across the US, and the Arizona governor suspended the tests specifically in that state. According to a report by Reuters, Uber allegedly scaled back on the number of safety sensors used to detect objects in the road, resulting in a blind zone on the Volvo SUV model involved in the accident.

Autonomous cars use radar, cameras and LiDAR to detect obstacles and pedestrians in their path. Reuters reports that Uber scaled back to a single LiDAR sensor on the Volvo test cars the company currently uses in its fleets. The resulting vehicles have more blind spots, says Reuter's sources, than Uber's previous generation of self-driving cars as well as that of rivals, which can use five or six sensors. It's unclear whether the lack of LiDAR played a role in the accident, but it's a fact likely to come under some sort of scrutiny during any investigation. We've reached out to Uber for comment and will update this post when we hear back.