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Transportation Government Technology

Uber Ordered To Take Its Self-Driving Cars Off Arizona Roads (nytimes.com) 295

After failing to meet an expectation that it would prioritize public safety as it tested its self-driving technology, Uber has been ordered to take its self-driving cars off Arizona roads (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source). "The incident that took place on March 18 is an unquestionable failure to comply with this expectation," Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona wrote in a letter sent to Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber's chief executive. "Arizona must take action now." The New York Times reports: Uber had already suspended all testing of its cars in Arizona, San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Toronto. "We proactively suspended self-driving operations in all cities immediately following the tragic incident last week. We continue to help investigators in any way we can, and we'll keep a dialogue open with the governor's office to address any concerns they have," said Matt Kallman, an Uber spokesman. The rebuke from the governor is a reversal from what has been an open-arms policy by the state, heralding its lack of regulation as an asset to lure autonomous vehicle testing -- and tech jobs. Waymo, the self-driving car company spun out from Google, and General Motors-owned Cruise are also testing cars in the state. Mr. Ducey said he was troubled by a video released from the Tempe Police Department that seemed to show that neither the Uber safety driver nor the autonomous vehicle detected the presence of a pedestrian in the road in the moments before the crash.
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Uber Ordered To Take Its Self-Driving Cars Off Arizona Roads

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  • According to the Arizona Department of Transportation, at least as of 2016 [azdot.gov], there were 952 fatalities in car accidents in Arizona, or approximately 2.61 deaths per day.

    Surely Governor Ducey is not going to be a hypocrite, particularly when lives are at stake: "Arizona must take action now!"

    • by itsdapead ( 734413 ) on Tuesday March 27, 2018 @06:05AM (#56332713)

      According to the Arizona Department of Transportation, at least as of 2016 [azdot.gov], there were 952 fatalities in car accidents in Arizona, or approximately 2.61 deaths per day.

      So far so good - now look up the number of cars in Arizona [statista.com] (about 2.4 million) and the number of Uber self-driving cars [techradar.com] (200 across 4 cities). Now apply "appropriate precision" in Uber's favour - 200 out of 2 million = 1/10,000 of AZ cars are uber self-drivers. So, with 1000 fatalities/year, Uber get to kill someone every 10 years - they've used that up in one. (Of course, that's an unspeakably crude and dubious calculation, but its better than yours).

      Then, of course, of those 1000 regular fatalities, many will be attributed to drunk-driving, speeding, texting (or other forms of reckless driving), non-roadworthy vehicles etc. all of which carry potential criminal penalties - including possible driving bans - so its not the case that nothing is being done about them.

      Uber were allowed to test experimental vehicles on the condition that they'd have a safety driver ready to take over - and one thing that the video clearly shows was that the safety driver was not paying attention (to the surprise of absolutely nobody except, apparently, Uber). The video also shows that the pedestrian was crossing the road in clear line-of-sight, in a street-lit area, from left-to-right yet the car made no attempt to brake or swerve. If you believe that the video truly represents what the Mk 1 eyeball and/or the car's sensors could "see" then all that proves is that the car was going too fast for the conditions - outdriving its headlights - and the driver should have taken action to slow it down.

      • by burtosis ( 1124179 ) on Tuesday March 27, 2018 @07:05AM (#56332869)
        It gets better, here [youtube.com]is what the street really looks like at night. About 1 second before the accident there is a yield to bikes sign due to all the bicycle traffic in the area.
        • by Drethon ( 1445051 ) on Tuesday March 27, 2018 @07:44AM (#56332961)

          Might be pointless but one recommendation I would have to the automated car companies is any warning sign, like yield to bikes, should have a visual and audible alert by from the car to "wake up" the human monitoring the car. Though given how often nothing would happen after that alert, it would probably get ignored after a while.

    • by Jeremi ( 14640 )

      Have you calculated how many people would die if all automobile traffic were banned, due to being unable to get access to food, medical care, their jobs, etc? Sure Theaetetus is not going to be a hypocrite, particularly when lives are at stake!

  • by Ash-Fox ( 726320 ) on Tuesday March 27, 2018 @05:43AM (#56332657) Journal

    Since the driver was unable to detect this incident too, they better remove all drivers as well!

    • Drivers staring at their cell phone are *already* banned.

    • by itsdapead ( 734413 ) on Tuesday March 27, 2018 @08:30AM (#56333075)

      Since the driver was unable to detect this incident too, they better remove all drivers as well!

      If a driver was caught behaving like the one in the Uber video - not holding the wheel, concentrating on something in their lap and only glancing occasionally at the road, or otherwise not fully in control of their vehicle - they probably would be removed (and/or have their house removed by the civil courts if death/injury was involved).

      Why are people implying that there is some double standard being applied against Uber here? They were already granted an exception that allowed them to test cars in "hands off" mode provided theyn had a safety driver ready to intervene - they've blown that by not taking steps to ensure that their safety drivers stayed on task (which anybody with a grain of nous knew was likely to be an issue).

      Option A: the dashcam shows that there was nothing physically blocking the pedestrian from view, and in a street-light area either the driver's Mk1 eyeball or the car's sensors should have spotted them long before the low-sensitivity dashcam or, Option B: Uber's dashcam video does give an accurate impression of visibility at the time (flap, oink) - in which case the car was dangerously outdriving its headlamps and should have slowed down (or been slowed down by the driver) without needing to see the pedestrian. Pick one. If a human-driven car had had that accident, the driver would stand a good chance of facing - at least - careless charges and/or a civil lawsuit.

    • this is the computer equivalent of that.
  • This is not a person who suddenly jumped out onto the road here.... while she was jaywalking, she was also *WALKING*... I've seen an overhead view of the section of road where the incident occurred, and there's no significant occlusions there; ordinarily, vision seems that it would be pretty good there in daylight conditions. It's my understanding that self-driving cars use lidar sensors, and should even be able to detect a person in an absence of any visible light at all, so the fact that it was night should be immaterial. Reasonably, the car should have seen that she was on the sidewalk long before she stepped out into the road, and the very *instant* that she started to go off of the sidewalk should have been detected by the car, and the car should immediately begin to slow down.

    Yet, by all reports I've heard, the car did not even see this pedestrian at all, and had not even tried to slow down until after the collision. Why? What the fuck happened?

    • Because Uber doesn't know what they're doing.
      The car is supposed to have LIDAR sensors. So either Uber wasn't using them or the software failed catastrophically. (Or both.)

      I'm sure they've been busy doctoring logs and sensor data.

  • Now you're not even safe on the sidewalk!

  • by seniorcoder ( 586717 ) on Tuesday March 27, 2018 @10:29AM (#56333693)
    I can imagine some lawmaker somewhere declaring a halt to driverless cars after this accident.
    I have already several articles suggesting that this should not be done because only more and more refinement of such a complex product will cause it to become viable. Also even with a few bugs, driverless cars are possibly already less accident-prone than humans.

    As a software developer, I naturally side with continuing development.
    Looking at the FAA gives a good model on how to proceed.
    When an airplane crashes, the FAA sometimes grounds all models of that plane until the cause of the crash is determined and, if it was a technology error, will not allow the planes to fly again until the problem is satisfactorily resolved.
    That would appear to be a measured response to this type of problem.

    Don't halt all development. Don't proceed, ignoring the death(s).
    Prohibit the specific driverless system from using the public roads until the problem is determined and an acceptable fix is made.

    Just as cars have model years that receive approval, so should specific versions of driverless systems.
    Then we can have official patches deployed on an as-needed basis, not just when a software engineer declares a bug has been fixed.
    Very strict controls need to be in place to allow/deny a software/hardware update to a driverless system.
    I don't want my car to be hacked and used as a killer weapon.
    • I would definitely be in favor of requiring national and, in the US, state authorization for autonomous vehicles to be tested on public roads. I believe the objection is that a "bureaucratic process" would "stifle innovation" and preventable deaths are a preferred alternative. Heaven forbid we let engineers use their engineering expertise to minimize loss of human life when there's a mad rush to be first to market.

      The benefit of requiring licensing and government oversight is that every developer will be wo

  • In response to the request to have all of our autonomous vehicles removed from public roadways:

    1. A request has been made to have them all removed.

    2. Except for Christine. We've lost contact with Christine. And we really don't know where this car is.
  • We proactively suspended self-driving operations in all cities immediately following the tragic incident last week.

    proactive - adjective
    (of a person, policy, or action) creating or controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened.

In 1869 the waffle iron was invented for people who had wrinkled waffles.

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