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Arizona governor and Uber kept self-driving program secret, emails reveal.
Here's one for Mr. & Mrs. Guohua... and by the way, hurry on back!

Quote:Arizona governor and Uber kept self-driving program secret, emails reveal.

'Arizona’s Republican governor repeatedly encouraged Uber’s controversial experiment with
autonomous cars in the state, enabling a secret testing program for self-driving vehicles with
limited oversight from experts, according to hundreds of emails obtained by the Guardian.

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Governor Doug Ducey.

The previously unseen emails between Uber and the office of governor Doug Ducey reveal how
Uber began quietly testing self-driving cars in Phoenix in August 2016 without informing the public.

On Monday, eight days after one of Uber’s self-driving vehicles killed a pedestrian in a Phoenix suburb,
Ducey suspended the company’s right to operate autonomous cars on public roads in Arizona.
It was a major about-face for the governor, who has spent years embracing the Silicon Valley startup.

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Uber’s behind-the-scenes efforts to court Ducey, and the governor’s apparent willingness to satisfy the
company, is made clear in the emails, which were sent between 2015 and 2007 and obtained by the
Guardian through public records requests.

They reveal how Uber offered workspace for Ducey’s staff in San Francisco, praised the governor lavishly,
and promised to bring money and jobs to his state. Ducey, meanwhile, helped Uber deal with other officials
in Arizona, issued decrees that were friendly to the company, tweeted out an advert at the company’s request,
and even seems to have been open to wearing an Uber T-shirt at an official event.

There is no way to know whether tougher regulations would have prevented the death of 49-year-old Elaine
Herzberg, who was struck by an Uber-owned Volvo while it was in self-driving mode on 19 March.
Uber immediately suspended its self-driving vehicle testing in Arizona, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto.

The first fatal crash involving a self-driving vehicle and a pedestrian in the US has sparked a national discussion
about the safety of a technology, which tech companies claim will dramatically improve road safety.

However the correspondence between Ducey and Uber will now throw a spotlight on the Arizona governor’s office
–and raise questions about his apparently laissez-faire approach to safety.
While Arizona’s neighbour California has some of the toughest self-driving regulations in America, other states,
such as Michigan and Florida, are at least as permissive as Arizona, with few restrictions and little oversight of
highly automated vehicles.

‘A real thought leader’
Arizona was not always a friendly state for Uber. In April 2014, then-governor Jan Brewer vetoed legislation that
would have exempted taxi-hailing companies from insurance regulations imposed on traditional taxis.

Uber and Lyft continued to operate in the state, however, risking fines for their drivers. In late 2014, Brewer was
replaced by Ducey, a fellow Republican, and Uber almost immediately began its charm offensive.

A month after being sworn in, Ducey met with David Plouffe, Barack Obama’s former campaign manager, who had
been hired by Uber as a senior vice-president, and another Uber executive named Justin Kintz.

The following week, Kintz wrote to Ducey: “I know [Plouffe] and [Uber founder] Travis [Kalanick] are as excited as
I am to expand our footprint in Arizona, and we are encouraged that the state legislature is interested in codifying
a permanent regulatory structure for ridesharing.”

One of Ducey’s first acts as governor was to instruct officials not to pursue ride-share drivers over taxi licensing rules.
Uber seemed to have secured a political ally in Ducey who signed a bill legalizing ride-sharing at a high-profile
ceremony in April 2015, flanked by Uber and Lyft drivers and executives.

In the run-up to the ceremony, Uber staff wrote to Ducey’s office with some questions. “Is the governor still interested
in wearing an Uber shirt at the event? We’re looking into polo shirts, and it would be great to get his size,” wrote one.
“Can we swap out the order and have the Uber driver [introduce the governor]?” wrote another. “I think this makes
more sense since this is ultimately about them.”

While Ducey’s team agreed to Uber’s scheduling preference, photographs from the signing show him wearing a
plain blue shirt. Nevertheless, Uber was pleased with Ducey’s performance.

Justin Kintz sent a gushing email to Ducey’s chief of staff calling the governor “a real thought leader on these
innovation issues”. Uber also said it would send out an “all-rider, all-driver email thanking the [governor] and the
state of AZ for their leadership.”...'
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