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Uber's Self-Driving Car Didn't Malfunction, It Was Just Bad

The Atlantic

On March 18, at 9:58 p.m., a self-driving Uber car killed Elaine Herzberg. The vehicle was driving itself down an uncomplicated road in suburban Tempe, Arizona, when it hit her. Herzberg, who was walking across the mostly empty street, was the first pedestrian killed by an autonomous vehicle. The preliminary National Transportation Safety Board report on the incident, released on Thursday, shows that Herzberg died because of a cascading series of errors, human and machine, which present a damning portrait of Uber's self-driving testing practices at the time. Perhaps the worst part of the report is that Uber's system functioned as designed.


NTSB: Uber Self-Driving Car Had Disabled Emergency Brake System Before Fatal Crash

NPR

A vehicle drives by the spot where an Uber self-driving vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian earlier this year in Tempe, Ariz. The National Transportation Safety Board released a preliminary report Thursday on the collision. A vehicle drives by the spot where an Uber self-driving vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian earlier this year in Tempe, Ariz. The National Transportation Safety Board released a preliminary report Thursday on the collision. The Uber self-driving vehicle that struck and killed a pedestrian two months ago in Tempe, Ariz., took note of the victim with its sensors, but its software did not engage the car's brakes to prevent the collision, according to a preliminary report released Thursday by the National Transportation Safety Board.


Self-Driving Uber That Hit Pedestrian Wasn't Set to Stop in an Emergency

WSJ.com: WSJD - Technology

The crash marked the first pedestrian death involving a self-driving car and ignited a broader discussion about whether the driverless technology that auto and tech companies are racing to develop is ready for the real world. It also illustrates the challenges Uber has faced in developing software that can detect hazards on the road and respond appropriately, as the ride-hailing company chases rivals such as Alphabet Inc.'s Waymo and General Motors Co.'s Cruise Automation, which aim to deploy robot taxis that could pose as a threat to Uber's business. Uber was testing a fleet of Volvo Cars sport-utility vehicles that come equipped with automatic emergency braking and other safety features. The vehicles, however, were modified by the ride-hailing company, which equipped them with cameras, sensors and onboard computers. An operator rides in each vehicle, prepared to take the wheel to ensure safety as needed.


NTSB report says self-driving Uber saw pedestrian 6 seconds before deadly crash

FOX News

Raw video: Cameras mounted inside the car catches the fatal moment. Authorites are investigating the cause of the crash. The self-driving Uber SUV that struck and killed Elaine Herzberg in Tempe, Ariz., in March picked her up on its sensors six seconds before it hit her, but did not determine that it needed to stop or evade her until it was too late, according to federal investigators. Herzberg was jaywalking her bicycle across a four-lane section of road on the night of March 18 when the Volvo XC90 SUV ran into her. A preliminary report on the accident from the National Transportation Safety Board issued on Thursday said that a review of the data from the car shows that it first identified her as an unknown object, then as a vehicle and finally as a bicycle.


Uber's Self-Driving Car Saw the Woman It Killed, Report Says

WIRED

The federal investigators examining Uber's fatal self-driving crash in March released a preliminary report this morning. It lays out the facts of the collision that killed a woman walking her bicycle in Tempe, Arizona, and explains what the vehicle actually saw that night. The National Transportation Safety Board won't determine the cause of the crash or issue safety recommendations to stop others from happening until it releases its final report, but this first look makes two things clear: Engineering a car that drives itself is very hard. And any self-driving car developer that is relying on a human operator to monitor its testing systems--to keep everyone on the road safe--should be extraordinarily careful about the design of that system. The report says that the Uber vehicle, a modified Volvo XC90 SUV, had been in autonomous mode for 19 minutes and was driving at about 40 mph when it hit 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg as she was walking her bike across the street.


Self-driving Uber saw pedestrian 6 seconds before fatal crash, new NTSB report says

Mashable

More details have emerged about the self-driving Uber car crash that killed a woman in Arizona earlier this year. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its preliminary findings Thursday about the March 18 fatal crash. Elaine Herzberg, 49, was struck and killed while walking a bicycle across a four-lane road in Tempe, Arizona. A 44-year-old Uber test driver was at the wheel of the modified 2017 Volvo XC90. The car was in autonomous mode and had been for the 19 minutes before the crash.


The AI in your non-autonomous car

#artificialintelligence

Your next car probably won't be autonomous. But, it will still have artificial intelligence (AI). While most of the attention has been on advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and autonomous driving, AI will penetrate far deeper into the car. These overlooked areas offer fertile ground for incumbents and startups alike. Where is the fertile ground for these features?


Uber self-driving car 'saw woman but didn't brake before crash'

New Scientist

An autonomous Uber car spotted a pedestrian about six seconds before fatally hitting her but did not stop because the system used to automatically apply brakes in potentially dangerous situations had been disabled, US federal investigators said. In a preliminary report on the crash, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said emergency braking manoeuvres are not enabled while Uber's cars are under computer control "to reduce the potential for erratic vehicle behaviour". Instead, Uber relies on a human backup driver to intervene but the system is not designed to alert the driver. In the crash in March, the driver began steering less than a second before impact but did not brake until less than a second after impact, according to the preliminary report, which does not determine fault. A video of the crash showed the driver looking down just before the vehicle struck and killed 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg in Tempe, Arizona.


We Now Know Why the Self-Driving Uber That Killed a Pedestrian Didn't Brake

Slate

Uber's self-driving vehicles operating in Arizona were unprepared to safely encounter pedestrians and were fatally over-reliant on the mindfulness of human operators, a federal accident report released Thursday shows. On March 18, Uber's Volvo XC90 was being driven by software but supervised by a human attendant in the driver's seat when it hit and killed Elaine Herzberg, who was crossing the darkened road with her bicycle. It was the first fatal crash involving a vehicle driven by a computer, a technology that promises long-term safety improvements but has been rushed into road testing by a handful of companies despite questions about transparency and reliability. According to the preliminary report of the National Transportation Safety Board, Uber's sensors first perceived Herzberg about six seconds before impact--more than twice the commonly accepted reaction-time of 2.5 seconds. But the sensors struggled to classify Herzberg (first as an unknown object, then as a car, then as a bicycle) and determine her expected path across the road.


Uber in fatal crash detected pedestrian but had emergency braking disabled

#artificialintelligence

The initial report by the National Transportation Safety Board on the fatal self-driving Uber crash in March confirms that the car detected the pedestrian as early as 6 seconds before the crash, but did not slow or stop because its emergency braking systems were deliberately disabled. Uber told the NTSB that "emergency braking maneuvers are not enabled while the vehicle is under computer control, to reduce the potential for erratic vehicle behavior," in other words to ensure a smooth ride. "The vehicle operator is relied on to intervene and take action. The system is not designed to alert the operator." It's not clear why the emergency braking capability even exists if it is disabled while the car is in operation.