What Uber learned from his deadly self-driving car


“If ‘self-driving’ is used in general conversations to describe current or upcoming vehicles, we should be very concerned,” said Ensar Becic of the NTSB, the US traffic safety authority, on Monday, “There are no automated vehicles of the SAE level that are ready for series production 3. ” Becic has closely examined the accident of March 18, 2018, in which an Uber test car killed pedestrian Elaine Herzberg in Tempe, Arizona.

At the Automated Vehicles Symposium on Monday, the man presented lessons and recommendations derived from the fatal accident. A Uber representative took the opportunity to explain what has changed since then at Uber ATG, the Uber division for autonomous vehicles. Test drives have been resumed, but this time everything will be different. As can be seen, there are still numerous shortcomings among authorities and manufacturers.

In the fatal accident, the woman, pushing a bicycle, had crossed an illuminated multi-lane road that was otherwise free of traffic. On the last lane, Herzberg was rammed and killed by the Uber car undergoing a test drive. The woman had already detected sensors of the self-driving car 5.6 seconds before the impact, but the computer did not initiate evasive action or braking.

The operator sitting in the vehicle, who should have monitored the robot car and intervened in the event of an emergency, looked at her cell phone instead of the road. It was only 0.2 seconds before the impact that the on-board computer drew attention to the dangerous situation. Too late.

From the factory, the car had an emergency braking system with lidar and radar. However, when installing the self-driving system, Uber also installed a radar that operated on the same frequency. To avoid interference, Uber engineers deactivated the original emergency braking system.

If two people were initially in the car during the test drives, this was reduced to one for cost reasons. For one person alone, however, it is practically impossible to watch a robot for hours and remain attentive. “If the driver’s role is reduced to monitoring automation, we know the result,” said Becic on Monday. “We need to learn how to keep drivers actively involved.”

To ensure that the operators really watch the traffic, Uber installed surveillance cameras aimed at the occupants. Apparently, nobody ever looked at their recordings. “The supervision of the company left a lot to be desired,” said Becic kindly and Uber ATG generally attested an “inadequate safety culture.” Because nobody was checking, the operator was able to dedicate herself to her cell phone.

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