back to article Uber's self-driving cars can't handle bike lanes, forcing drivers to kill autonomous mode

Uber's claim that its self-driving cars don't qualify as self-driving cars, a stance challenged on Friday by California Attorney General Kamala Harris, becomes more complicated in light of findings that the vehicles, while under software control, can't follow the law when it comes to cyclists. In an article published on …

The software has learned to drive like a taxi driver.....

The software seems to have learned how Uber drivers drive!

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Re: The software has learned to drive like a taxi driver.....

I strongly suspect they feed data from their actual drivers into their neural net. And it shows.

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Re: The software has learned to drive like a taxi driver.....

Hah I was going to comment "just like a human Uber driver!"

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FAIL

"No, our cars are not self-driving, they are way more dangerous!"

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Dangerous? No, guv, no.

"The potential for autonomous vehicle technology is exciting, but knowingly rolling out unpermitted, unsafe vehicles shows a blatant disregard for people's safety," said Cassidy.

Ah, but it's disruptive, innit?

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Terminator

Re: Dangerous? No, guv, no.

When Uber finally kills someone with this, their disruptive approach will mean they'll ignore the corporate manslaughter charge and instead prosecute the family of the victim for wilful obstruction of a personal conveyance and wanton vandalism of the bumper, paintwork and tyres, not to mention the cleanup costs of the road itself and the inordinately expensive cost of emotional counselling for the AI in charge of the vehicle.

Perhaps Uber should pre-emptively get Massingbird on the line?

"I remember Massingbird's most famous case — the Case of the Bloody Knife. A man was found next to a murdered body. He had the knife in his hand, thirteen witnesses had seen him stab the victim and when the police picked him up he said to them, 'I'm glad I killed the bastard'. Massingbird not only got him acquitted, he got him knighted in the New Year's Honour's list and the relatives of the victim had to pay to have the blood washed out of his jacket."

Not sure if I should be adding the "joke alert" or not.

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Copied the idiot's answers

Google's cars also turn across the bike lane illegally but they've been programmed to halt and cause a major traffic jam rather than hit cyclists.

Very few people in Silicon Valley have any idea what the traffic laws are. Rather than enforce traffic laws, most cities replace merge lanes and turn lanes with red traffic lights.

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Re: Copied the idiot's answers

Actually, most drivers I have seen in the Valley treat the cycle lanes correctly. Not that there is anyone in the lanes in the first place. Every time I go there I want to buy a bike and leave it in the (whatever company I work for at the time) office as there that is literally "the way to travel".

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Re: Copied the idiot's answers

Google's cars also turn across the bike lane illegally but they've been programmed to halt and cause a major traffic jam rather than hit cyclists.

For the avoidance of doubt: stopping, whether it causes a traffic jam or not, is always the correct alternative to hitting cyclists.

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Re: Copied the idiot's answers

Unless you're a Daily Mail reader

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Uber: Your honor it was the meat puppets fault as our cars are not self driving .

Meat puppet: BS your honor the car turned on it's own all I can do is hit the breaks.

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Headmaster

s/breaks/brakes/

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Is it really a surprise? They have been driving illegally in Germany (with drivers) since the beginning.

(In Germany you cannot drive paying passengers without a professional driving license (this is not the same as a taxi license, the taxi driver also has to have a professional license, before he can apply for a taxi license). Without that, he cannot get commercial insurance for carrying passengers. He cannot drive his vehicle whilst working for Uber without commercial insurance and if he is caught driving for Uber without commercial insurance, he will be fined and banned from driving. Additionally, if the driver is involved in an accident, the insurance is null and void, so all parties involved will be compensated out of the pockets of the Uber driver.

Depsite this being pointed out to them, Uber seem to have refused to ensure their drivers are properly licensed and insured. Therefore they were deemed to be illegal, but they carried on anyway.

That was the last stand that was reported in the press. I don't know if they have now changed their ways, but they were claiming at the time, that it had nothing to do with them, that they were using illegal drivers.)

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Meh

As far as I can see, their entire business seems to be about generating hype by repeatedly breaking the law and getting away with it by exploiting loopholes in jurisdiction.

It's about time that the world's authorities decided that enough is enough, clubbed together and sent the entire Uber board to jail for life. Ensuring that they pick a jurisdiction to do so where hiring a legal weasel to bullshit you out of jail doesn't work. Poetic justice.

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the world's authorities

What? Putin? Maybe if you ask him nicely.

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I never understood how they made it this far since they are running an illegal taxi business in almost every jurisdiction in which they operate. Where I live it's illegal to charge a passenger fare unless you are a licensed cab/limo/bus, the end, no exceptions. If I drive a friend to work and they pay me more than their share of gas money I could technically be charged.

I've heard politicians claim it's too hard to crack down on uber, but in fact they have made it trivial, there's an app for that. Call up an uber ride, and if they don't have the proper licensing you fine them and uber. Pretty soon they will find no one wants to drive for uber.

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Jail for life.

Seems totally reasonable for insurance fraud.

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When is someone going to hold Uber to account

On this specific matter, a meat bag driving a car in this way would presumably get a ticket so as long as the Uber vehicles are subject to the same law and the tickets are sent to Uber (either directly or via the meat bag driving the self-driving car) then I don't see the problem.

Or will Uber simply then deny that they are subject to THAT law as well ?

I cannot even being to put into words the contempt in which I hold this outfit. It is only slightly less than the contempt for the authorities constantly moaning that Uber refuses to be subject to the law of whichever land they are operating but then not doing anything and everything in their legal power to bring them to book.

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Re: When is someone going to hold Uber to account

Take it a step further... they claim they aren't taxi company yet they are buying and testing self-driving cars and also own a company making trucks with auto-pilot. All their drivers and vehicles are claimed to be "contractors" and "contractor owned" to enable "ride-sharing". Will they soon claim that the truckers are "load-sharing"? So what the fu** are they besides a company who doesn't want to follow any regulations?

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Re: When is someone going to hold Uber to account

So what the fu** are they besides a company who doesn't want to follow any regulations?

A Valley company. The gospel of the valley is "You shall disrupt" (and someone else will pick up the bill for your disruption).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: When is someone going to hold Uber to account

I cannot even being to put into words the contempt in which I hold this outfit.

Although.I share your contempt, the problem is that they make money by the bucketload breaking the law in any way possible, and as long as fines do not outstrip profit they will continue to do their level best to continue - such is The American Way.

If I was in the jurisdictions where they were operating I'd find a way to sling them into jail rather than fine them. As for the unauthorised driverless trials, that's easy. Impound the cars. A vehicle with those changes is not type approved, thus not approved to be on the road at all. I wouldn't fine the drivers, but I'd get a statement out of them that management has said that it was all above board so you go after the C-level and maybe come up with a way to stick them in jail for that too.

Worth repeating: fines do NOT work as long as they do not exceed profit - we're clearly dealing with MBAs.

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Re: When is someone going to hold Uber to account

"fines do NOT work as long as they do not exceed profit "

Actually, corporate fines do not work. Full stop.

First, how many of them are ever collected in a timely manner? Justice delayed is justice denied.

Second, they become no more than a routine cost of doing business, to be passed on to customers and employees wherever possible. And if that's not sufficient, declare bankruptcy before paying the fine.

A possible improvement: these corporate 'leaders', who proclaim themselves to be personally and individually responsible for their companies' successes, must surely also be personally and individually responsible for their companies less happy times and behaviours, no? In which case if the legally appropriate punishment is some time inside, then the leaders get locked up.

If these corporate 'leaders' aren't personally and individually responsible for corporate behaviours, maybe they can be paid a more basic wage, same as they frequently impose on the rest of their workforce (or 'contractors' or whatever they call them).

Simples, as folk used to say.

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Re: When is someone going to hold Uber to account

they make money by the bucketload

Actually, they don't. They make heavy losses, largely as a result of subsidising the cost of your ride.

For there ever to be a return that would meet Valley-scale expectations human drivers will likely have to be eliminated as soon as possible as well as a good chunk of the potential competition, including public transport. However, investment keeps pouring in, apparently in the hope that there will be a sufficient period between the business becoming profitable and becoming a regulated monopoly to make a killing.

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Re: When is someone going to hold Uber to account

So those billionaire owners of Uber -- did they win a lottery? Do they play in a rock band. Where oh where does that money come from??

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Re: When is someone going to hold Uber to account

"Actually, corporate fines do not work. Full stop."

That is true. The only way to penalize a company is to force it to create new shares and hand them over to a government agency. Anything else is a fine on the customers of the company.

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Re: When is someone going to hold Uber to account

"So those billionaire owners of Uber -- did they win a lottery? Do they play in a rock band. Where oh where does that money come from??"

Vulture Capitalists hoping to cash in on an IPO. Pump in enough money to make the venture "valuable" so it earns a lot at the IPO and, well, who cares if it fails afterwards?

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The real problem isn't the cars, but the lawmakers. Thanks to our "marble cake" democracy, every dick, jane, and harry can pass laws about the roads. There are no standards, and unlike people, computers need standards. Even our own legislatures have lost count of the number of laws in the country -- we really don't know how many there are. Some of them conflict with other laws, or cannot be enforced (for example, it's illegal to wear the US flag -- federal law -- but cannot be enforced because the Supreme Court ruled it violates the first amendment), or are vague, and/or poorly worded.

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Drivers -- human drivers -- get screwed on this sort of thing all the time. Up here in Minnesota, we have such convoluted laws dealing with 'snow' that everytime it does, cars get towed by the thousands. Even the police can't keep it straight. And this applies to just where your car gets parked. God help you trying to figure out the byzantine rules downtown about yielding to bikes, buses, pedestrians, none of whom follow any rules governing their behavior -- An alien observing the movement of people and cars would probably conclude the entire process is just random brownian motion.

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In Nevada, jay-walkers can be *legally* hit by cars and the *pedestrian* is liable for any damages. jay walking is also known as not crossing in a designated crosswalk. Fun fact: There aren't very many in Los Vegas -- it's largest city, and not the place everyone thinks is Los Vegas either, but the unincorporated blob all those casinos are built on.

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Self-driving cars will never reach the standard people think they will, because they're trying to work in a hopelessly convoluted system that was designed by committee, implimented by morons, and policed by the incompetent. All we can do is try to design them not to mow people down in bulk... which is how most drivers you know, drive, anyway: It doesn't matter very much if it's legal or not if your car gets wrecked by a drunk, or you run over someone who was making an illegal crossing, on a highway, at 2am, in the fog, while wearing all black (something that very nearly happened to me -- they were muslims with their full-body coverings, and I didn't see them until they looked at my oncoming headlights and I saw the reflection from their eyes... at a distance of less than 30 feet, while at 50 MPH).

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All that said... I have no doubt whatsoever that with only a few basic rules coded in (try to avoid hitting anything, obey the traffic signals, drive on the correct side of the road, and don't go faster than conditions permit), they'll do better than any human ever could.

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Methinks you're exaggerating a bit with your anecdote. Going 50 mph your car travels 30 feet in .40 seconds. No human has reflexes fast enough to react to the surprise of seeing people in their way and steering to swerve around them. You couldn't have braked because no car can stop from 50 to 0 in 30 feet even if you had instantaneous reaction time.

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Headmaster

> You couldn't have braked because no car can stop from 50 to 0 in 30 feet even if you had instantaneous reaction time.

Running the numbers on this, The Stig did a test to have a dig at the Highway Code stopping distances which state the total stopping distance at 70mph is 315 feet (aka 96m). They took a Vauxhall Insignia and stopped from 122mph in that distance. Assuming they didn't game the system(*) and ignore the "thinking distance" component, then it's eminently feasible that speed could at least be reduced to a much more survivable value.

Then there's this article listing 60 -> 0 stopping distances, with the shortest listed being an eye-bulging 90 feet.

Or, maybe he was in an F1 car, which can brake from 200 km/h (124 mph) to a complete stop in just 2.9 seconds, using only 65 metres (213 ft). Assuming linear deceleration, then you get down to a bit over 26m stopping distance, which is still too far :)

(*) Not beyond the realms of possibility with Clarkson & Co.

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Surely there cannot be a Los Vegas in Nevada as well as a Las Vegas?

Los, masculine, vegas (fields, meadows) feminine, so las.

And, as for safety systems, only auto-braking with ABS is really required to ensure maximum collision energy reduction.

And cars could *easily* see suicidal people wearing black at night (riding bikes with no lights), using infra-red. This would make auto-braking cars fantastically safer than human drivers.

The biggest problem is the fun kids and others would have jumping in front of the car to watch it scream to a halt. And the darwin-award-winning-deaths of the ones that mistook the vehicle type.

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Los, masculine, vegas (fields, meadows) feminine, so las.

Not the worst mistake in the world, but it does tend to increase a reader's skepticism. If such a simple detail was missed, how many of the more important details are wrong, too?

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Assuming they didn't game the system(*) and ignore the "thinking distance" component, then it's eminently feasible that speed could at least be reduced to a much more survivable value.

They didn't game the system - the Highway Code stopping distances were set some decades back when car brakes were nowhere near as good as modern brakes.

As for speed being reduced, the issue isn't so much speed but the momentum being carried at point of impact - ask anyone who has been on a Speed Awareness course.

I suspect the writer of the anecdote suffered from the usual problem of judging their speed and distances in the dark and fog. As driving at 50mph whilst being able to see less than 30 feet ahead (ie. less than two car lengths) does sound reckless...

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Just watched the Top Gear segment from 2009(?) - not the one I remember, but hey ho. At least they did some honest reporting on braking distance, so excluding the "thinking distance" part.

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"Methinks you're exaggerating a bit with your anecdote. Going 50 mph your car travels 30 feet in .40 seconds. No human has reflexes fast enough to react to the surprise of seeing people in their way and steering to swerve around them."

I re read the comment. He didn't say he stopped - he didn't say he even swerved! I understood it as one of those "oh, shit! wew! *wipes face*" moments.

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This is not the law in America as the caption says: "Right from wrong ... How you're supposed to take the corner in America...", it may however be the law in California. In Oregon the Uber car is turning correctly from the 'car' lane; the car should only merge right before the turn if the bike lane ends or if there is a turning lane to the right of the bike lane.

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"In Oregon the Uber car is turning correctly from the 'car' lane; the car should only merge right before the turn"

Very similar to NZ , where you are only allowed to occupy the cycle lane for a maximum of 50 metres (which is pretty much 'right before', even at urban speeds) before you make a left-hand turn - there's going to be a plethora software localization packages required for any self-driving, or even semi-self driving, vehicles.

All of which leads to the question of how long will manufacturers be required to provide software support eg., if there is a change in the law regarding something like motor vehicle occupancy of cycle lanes, is my 5 year old self-driving car going to become illegal to use because the manufacturer can't be bothered providing an appropriate patch?

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What the law says here in California and what drivers do are opposite. I can't recall anyone ever closing to the curb before turning right and since I'm usually a pedestrian, that's quite a large sample size.

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IT Angle

if software devs can program the TAX LAWS into software for doing your taxes, you'd think they could program DRIVING LAWS into the code, based on your geo-location via GPS. "In this city, you can't turn on a red light" for example. [though I think ALL cities now in the USA allow right turn on red after a complete stop, 'when safe' etc. unlike the way it was a couple of decades ago, at least, where in NYC it was illegal and you'd get ticketed for it and probably called "tourist" in a pejorative manner]

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"there's going to be a plethora software localization packages required for any self-driving, or even semi-self driving, vehicles."

Yep. Here in the UK, there are two types of cycle lanes. Those with a solid white line are cycles only. Those with a dashed white line are shared space. It seems most drivers and cyclists don't know the difference.

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Anonymous Coward

State of play

I thought the latest was the the California DMV had instructed this company to cease all "self-driving" operations on public roads immediately (emphasis on the original)? I don't recall where, but I saw that letter, signed by two lawyers from the DMV.

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Re: State of play

Yes, but Uber does whatever the fuck it wants anyway until it gets raided.

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Re: State of play

I saw that letter, signed by two lawyers from the DMV."

So technically, at least from Ubers PoV, that's just an opinion until it comes before a judge. And even if the judge sides with the DMV lawyers, there's always and appeal to a higher court. Then another one. And another one all the way to the top. And even then I have no doubt they'd try to appeal that decision "in light of new evidence" or some such legal weasel.

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Not Surprised

Part of the problem is writing workable code that correctly covers all situations. At this point in the development of autonomous vehicles this is not surprising. However there is a tendency to rush the technology out too early forgetting that software problems almost certainly will kill people.

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Facepalm

Re: Not Surprised

"there is a tendency to rush the technology out too early forgetting that software problems almost certainly will kill people."

Win-10-nic comes to mind, when you say that... [except maybe for the 'kill people' part]

"Microshaft Uber". Or "Microshaft Drive". ew.

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wsm

Next phase

Next will be AI in the cars, which could look around and see if anybody is nearby before doing anything--like moving forward.

The phase after that will be an AI with a random road rage mode which will allow it to fully duplicate the intelligence of current drivers.

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Just manufacturing the next set of customers

Look for the news that Uber offers a generous 5% discount to cyclists run off the road by the autonomous vehicles, deal good for as long as it takes their bones to set.

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Good to know!

Thank you so much for this instruction on how to turn across a bike lane! After reading the article I checked my state's drivers manual and there is nary a word about moving into bike lanes. It seems an obvious safety improvement to do what they say, it's just that I thought bike lanes were off limit for cars, almost no matter what. I'm going to be visiting SF for the RSA conference and this article may well have saved poor cyclist's life!

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Anonymous Coward

"Bike lanes"

Ahh, California. Under Massachusetts Common Law (lol) bike lanes are for passing on the right. Presumably they'll become the main travel lanes for cars once Google Cars arrive here.

Cyclists are advised to use the sidewalk, and to beware of oncoming cars while doing so.

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Let me fix that for you

Uber's reflexive resistance to regulation makes sense, given Silicon Valley's assumption that rules apply only to everyone else that it's Uber.

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Meanwhile in the real world Uber is losing billions of dollars

http://www.businessinsider.com/uber-lost-800-million-in-third-quarter-2016-2016-12

Great business model, borrow cheap money, drive legitimate companies out of business, clean up on IPO, leave trail of destruction behind.

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