Police in Tempe, Arizona said evidence showed the "safety" driver behind the wheel of a self-driving Uber was distracted and streaming a television show on her phone right up until about the time of a fatal accident in March, deeming the crash that rocked the nascent industry "entirely avoidable." A 318-page report from the Tempe Police Department, released late Thursday in response to a public records request, said the driver, Rafaela Vasquez, repeatedly looked down and not at the road, glancing up just a half second before the car hit 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, who was crossing the street at night. According to the report, Vasquez could face charges of vehicle manslaughter. Police said that, based on testing, the crash was "deemed entirely avoidable" if Vasquez had been paying attention. Police obtained records from Hulu, an online service for streaming television shows and movies, which showed Vasquez's account was playing the television talent show "The Voice" the night of the crash for about 42 minutes, ending at 9:59 p.m., which "coincides with the approximate time of the collision," the report says.
Self-driving vehicles are one of the most anticipated and exciting innovations in the world today. Driverless cars seemed like a sci-fi fantasy only a decade ago but they are fast becoming a reality as companies like auto manufacturers, ridesharing services, and tech companies race to develop a safe and reliable autonomous vehicle (AV). This article originally appeared in the Motley Fool. If the autonomous vehicle revolution lives up to the expectations of futurists and forecasters, its effects will be far-reaching. Not only will everyday commuting and transportation be transformed due to the rise of "mobility as a service" -- as the driverless revolution has been called -- but a wide range of industries will also be changed for better or worse as they adapt to a world where people can easily move from one destination to another in computerized pods. Just as the cloud has led to the transition of computing as a scalable service rather than a concrete product like hardware, analysts see a similar evolution with self-driving cars.
The day when cars can talk to each other – and to traffic lights, stop signs, guardrails and even pavement markings – is rapidly approaching. Driven by the promise of reducing traffic congestion and avoiding crashes, these systems are already rolling out on roads around the U.S. For instance, the Intelligent Traffic Signal System, developed with support from the U.S. Department of Transportation, has been tested on public roads in Arizona and California and is being installed more widely in New York City and Tampa, Florida. It allows vehicles to share their real-time location and speed with traffic lights, which can be used to effectively optimize the traffic timing in coordination with the real-time traffic demand to dramatically reduce vehicle waiting time in an intersection. Our work, from the RobustNet Research Group and the Michigan Traffic Laboratory at the University of Michigan, focuses on making sure these next-generation transportation systems are secure and protected from attacks. So far we've found they are in fact relatively easy to trick.
Waymo, the self-driving subsidiary of Google-parent Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL)(NASDAQ:GOOG), took its first delivery of 100 Chrysler Pacifica minivans supplied by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (NYSE:FCAU) in December of 2016, adding an additional 500 to its corral in April 2017. Earlier this year, the companies announced that Waymo would be adding "thousands" more minivans to its fleet, though it didn't specify how many. This article originally appeared in the Motley Fool. The companies just revealed the extent of their partnership, which will see Waymo adding up to 62,000 Chrysler Pacific Hybrid minivans to its fleet, more than 100 times the 600 it currently drives. While terms of the deal weren't made public, this total could exceed $2 billion, and delivery of the cars is expected to begin later this year.
According to a local report in Belgium, an owner of a Tesla Model S claimed it started on its own, without a driver, and drove into five other cars in the municipality of Saint-Gilles, Brussels. The article said the strange journey, explained by the owner to the police, met its end with a Dacia Logan across the street. It is unclear if there were any injuries and as to what the extent of damages were. This comes on the back of the fact that on Tuesday morning a Tesla Model S running on Autopilot mode crashed into a parked police vehicle in Laguna Beach, California, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. Laguna Police Sgt. Jim Cota explained the collision happened at 20652 Laguna Canyon Road and said "Thankfully there was not an officer at the time in the police car."
Science fiction movies (think, for instance, "Blade Runner") often depict cities of the future where the sky is a maze of invisible roads, chock-a-bloc with aerial vehicles that sometimes drive themselves. But unless you have been living like a hermit, cut off from the world, you would know that sort of a scenario is not entirely in the realm of fiction any more. While companies like Tesla, Uber and Waymo (among many others) have already been testing cars that drive themselves, there are others, including Airbus, Boeing and Toyota, who are working on flying cars. Even NASA is onboard with this vision for the future, and has an Urban Air Mobility (UAM) research team working toward this goal, which the agency calls "a safe and efficient air transportation system where everything from small package delivery drones to passenger-carrying air taxis operate over populated areas, from small towns to the largest cities." While a lot more research needs to be done to create the necessary technology that is both safe and efficient, not to mention the framing of rules and regulations to govern its use, it is certainly not just a pipedream.
Elon Musk's hubris has come back to bite him -- and Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) shareholders -- yet again. Less than three months ago, Musk devoted a substantial part of Tesla's Q4 earnings call to talk about plans for massive automation of the vehicle manufacturing process. Musk even said that Tesla's factory and production process, rather than its brand or vehicle designs, would be its long-term competitive advantage. This article originally appeared in the Motley Fool. It didn't take long for reality to set in.
In 1938, when there were just about one-tenth the number of cars on U.S. roadways as there are today, a brilliant psychologist and a pragmatic engineer joined forces to write one of the most influential works ever published on driving. A self-driving car's killing of a pedestrian in Arizona highlights how their work is still relevant today – especially regarding the safety of automated and autonomous vehicles. James Gibson, the psychologist in question, and the engineer Laurence Crooks, his partner, evaluated a driver's control of a vehicle in two ways. The first was to measure what they called the "minimum stopping zone," the distance it would take to stop after the driver slammed on the brakes. The second was to look at the driver's psychological perception of the possible hazards around the vehicle, which they called the "field of safe travel."
U.S. cars are twice as fuel-efficient today as they were 40 years ago. Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards are a major reason why. These standards are in the news because the Trump administration plans to scale back increases scheduled under President Barack Obama that require automakers to double fuel economy by 2025. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt now says that this standard is too high. This announcement has rightfully sparked debate – not just about narrow costs and benefits of fuel economy standards, but also over the U.S. role in shaping a global industry that faces a trio of radical transformations via electrification, self-driving cars and ride-sharing.
The recent deaths of a woman struck by a car Uber was testing in driverless mode and of a man whose Tesla Model X crashed when his hands were off the steering wheel because he was letting the car do some of the driving may shift the debate over autonomous vehicles. Those tragic fatalities are raising overdue questions about whether people and places will be ready when this new technology moves from beta-testing to a full-throttled rollout. As an urban planner who has analyzed how technology affects cities, I believe that driverless vehicles will change everything that moves and the stationary landscape too. Until now, the public and governments at all levels have paid too little attention to how letting these machines drive themselves will transform urban, rural and suburban communities. The Tesla Model S electric car that crashed into a fire engine in Culver City, California, in January 2018.