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Arizona's relationship with Uber under scrutiny: Report

Uber self-driving tests suspended

Arizona and Uber kept the company's testing of self-driving cars in the state out of the spotlight for months, according to a report in the Guardian. 

That is, until a self-driving car in Arizona crashed into a woman crossing the road in a Phoenix suburb and killed her, and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey suspended the testing of autonomous vehicles in his state. 

Neither Uber, nor the State of Arizona had a legal obligation to inform the public about the testing, under Arizona law. And Ducey did sign an executive order in August 2015 allowing the testing of autonomous vehicles in the state. 

But emails obtained by the Guardian under public records laws show reveal a consistent working relationship between Uber and Ducey's office. 

Uber representatives and Ducey first met a month after Ducey was sworn into office in 2015, according to the Guardian. In April 2015, Ducey signed legislation authorizing ride-sharing in the state in a high-profile appearance. 

A few months later, Ducey had a press conference with Uber announcing the company's $25,000 gift to the University of Arizona's College of Optical Sciences. Uber claimed it would base a fleet of cars out of the university. The same day, Aug. 25, 2015, Ducey issued an executive order allowing for the testing of autonomous cars with human drivers in the car as a safety precaution.

In July 2016, Uber's communications director Taylor Patterson asked Ducey's office to tweet about Uber Eats' arrival in his state. Ducey did so the following day.

Just before Uber began testing the autonomous cars in August 2016, Uber's head of public policy, Ashwini Chabra, informed Ducey's deputy chief of staff that the testing was about to begin, and asked him to send someone "discreet" to give the Phoenix police department a "heads up," according to the emails the Guardian obtained. 

Ducey's office said it is "categorically false" that Uber's testing was a secret. Ptak pointed to multiple news stories from 2016 about such autonomous vehicle testing in Arizona.

"The allegation that any company began testing autonomous vehicle technology in Arizona 'in secret' is categorically false," Patrick Ptak, spokesman for Ducey's office, told CBS News. " ... Arizona has been very public about the testing and operation of self-driving cars -- it has been anything but a secret. The governor has also demonstrated he will hold companies accountable when necessary, as his letter to Uber this week indicates."

Uber did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

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