A typical Uber driver has clearly defined responsibilities. Arrive on time, know your route, keep your car clean, and, most importantly, safely deliver your passenger to their destination. Sitting behind the wheel of a self-driving Uber--or any autonomous vehicle, for that matter--is, paradoxically, more complicated. A recent, tragic incident in which a self-driving Uber struck and killed a 49-year-old pedestrian, while a safety driver sat behind the wheel, has stirred up many conversations about blame, regulations, and the overall readiness of autonomous tech. The lingering question, however, is how we humans fit into this picture.
The British Royal Air Force had a problem. It was 1943, and the Brits were using radar equipment to spot German submarines sneaking around off the western coast of France. The young men sitting in planes circling over the Bay of Biscay had more than enough motivation to keep a watchful eye for the telltale blips on the screens in front of them. Yet they had a worrying tendency to miss the signals they'd been trained to spot. The longer they spent looking at the screen, the less reliable they became.
Brad Smith is Microsoft's President and Chief Legal Officer. Harry Shum is the Executive Vice President of Microsoft AI and Research Group. They've teamed to write this foreword for the company's new book. Twenty years ago, we both worked at Microsoft, but on opposite sides of the globe. In 1998, one of us was living and working in China as a founding member of the Microsoft Research Asia lab in Beijing. Five thousand miles away, the other was based at the company's headquarters, just outside of Seattle, leading the international legal and corporate affairs team. While we lived on separate continents and in quite different cultures, we shared a common workplace experience within Microsoft, albeit with differing routines before we arrived at the office. At that time in the United States, waking to the scent of brewing coffee was a small victory in technology automation. It meant that you had remembered to set the timer on the programmable coffee maker the night before. As you drank that first cup of coffee, you typically watched the morning news on a standard television or turned the pages of the local newspaper to learn what had happened while you slept.
China's capital city has given the green light to tech giant Baidu Inc to test self-driving cars on city streets, indicating strong support for the budding sector even as the industry reels from a fatal accident in the United States. Beijing's move is an important step as China looks to bolster its position in the global race for autonomous vehicles, where regulatory concerns have come into the spotlight since the crash earlier this month. The accident in Tempe, Arizona, involving an Uber self-driving car, was the first death attributed to a self-driving car operating in autonomous mode, and has ramped up pressure on the industry to prove its software and sensors are safe. China's capital city has given the green light to tech giant Baidu Inc to test self-driving cars on city streets, indicating strong support for the budding sector even as the industry reels from a fatal accident in the United States. Beijing has given Baidu, best known as China's version of search engine Google, a permit to test its autonomous vehicles on 33 roads spanning around 105 kilometres (65 miles) in the city's less-populated suburbs, the firm said in a statement.
Uber's self-driving car crash that led to the death of a mother-of-two could have been avoided, according to driverless vehicle experts. Police in Arizona are still investigating the incident and have released footage of the moment Elaine Herzberg, 49, was hit by the self-driving Volvo SUV. Cortica, a firm that develops artificial intelligence for autonomous vehicles, has analysed the dash cam video. The company concludes the car, which failed to brake or swerve before the collision, had enough time to react and potentially save Ms Herzberg's life. Uber's self-driving car crash that led to the death of a mother-of-two could have been avoided, according to experts.
Elaine Herzberg, a 49-year-old woman, was walking her bicycle across a road when a Volvo SUV, outfitted with Uber's radar technology and in fully autonomous mode, collided with her. The car was traveling at 38 miles per hour in a 35-mile-per-hour zone, and it did not attempt to brake before striking her, according to Tempe police. It is the first time that a self-driving car, operating in fully autonomous mode, has killed a pedestrian. Sylvia Moir, the police chief of Tempe, announced on Tuesday that Uber was likely not at fault for the collision. But after her department released footage of the collision on Wednesday, transportation experts said it showed a "catastrophic failure" of Uber's technology.
Uber's self-driving car program faced a major setback when one of its cars hit and killed a pedestrian Sunday night -- but the program was struggling before the deadly accident. It appears Uber rushed to launch new programs, modified its safety operations, and didn't hit goals, according to 100 pages of internal company documents the New York Times obtained and sources familiar with Uber's self-driving efforts in Phoenix who spoke to the publisher. An Uber spokesperson didn't directly deny the Times report in a statement to Mashable, but they did tout the company's commitment to safety and noted the emotional toll of the crash. "We believe that technology has the power to make transportation safer than ever before and recognize our responsibility to contribute to safety in our communities. So as we develop self-driving technology, safety is our primary concern every step of the way.
The Robotics Summit and Showcase is just a couple months away. Find out all about our agenda here and register by April 20 for a 20% discount to learn from the best in the robotics industry. Affectiva Automotive AI hopes to improve driver safety. Artificial intelligence (AI), to date, has helped autonomous vehicles mainly by monitoring the world around them. As we learned from the fatal Uber self-driving car crash, unfortunately, the technology is not perfect.
If you've spent enough time with the people building self-driving cars, you'll know they've seen this coming for a while. No matter how good the tech, no matter how much better than humans it might be--eventually, everyone agreed, someone would be killed. Still, when a self-driving Uber struck and killed a 49-year-old woman named Elaine Herzberg in Tempe, Arizona, on Sunday, it felt awful. Video released by the Tempe Police Department this week doesn't tell the whole story, but indicates something went wrong with Uber's tech. And it raises a whole lot of fresh questions.