back to article Uber robo-ride's deadly crash: Self-driving car had emergency braking switched off by design

One of Uber’s self-driving cars killed a pedestrian crossing the road at night because its emergency braking systems were turned off, according to an investigation by the US government's National Transport Safety Board. The watchdog's four-page report released on Thursday is a grave reminder that today's autonomous vehicles …

  1. Martin-73 Silver badge

    The driver and Uber both need to be prosecuted for causing death by dangerous driving (or whatever the leftpondian equivalent is). uber needs to go away now.

    1. JLV Silver badge

      See this little jewel was left out of the article.

      https://arstechnica.com/cars/2018/05/emergency-brakes-were-disabled-by-ubers-self-driving-software-ntsb-says/

      the driver was distracted by having to review/flag an Uber touchscreen, which logs significant trip contextual info. This is part of her job, _per Uber design_.

      Un-fucking-believable. I would love to see a $10M+ fine, and jail time for the brakes-off / driver-does-other-stuff decision makers @ Uber.

      It's just so callous, it seems like a caricature of shitty corporate profit-seeking behavior by a retarded script writer.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        If the safety driver is required to take their attention away from that very important job to type crap into a computer, they need a second person in a car to handle the book work.

        All the executives at Uber who were responsible for creating and approving this asinine policy should be held responsible for that woman's death. As well as whoever had the brilliant idea to turn off the emergency braking function!

        1. Chz

          It was also noted that Uber used to have two people in the car - one for entering data, and one for emergencies. Then they decided to save money and merge the roles.

      2. John Robson Silver badge

        "the driver was distracted by having to review/flag an Uber touchscreen, which logs significant trip contextual info. This is part of her job, _per Uber design_."

        At that point the vehicular manslaughter charges against Uber's management should be upgraded to negligent, or even deliberate.

        If you need someone reading a screen during a drive then that should be a different person from the safety driver...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          As others have said, and I also made the same mistake originally, I thought the driver was doing other things. They were doing what they were told to do. They may not have been made aware what or how the autonomous mode works, and if they needed to perform emergency breaks themselves.

          Which puts a lot of responsibility on Uber.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      A normal human driven car would still have run over the cyclist/pedestrian/lemming so I don't see how they could have caused the death.

      1. John H Woods Silver badge

        Should have gone to SpecSavers

        You might want to stop driving until you do.

        Any reasonably alert and competent driver could have (should have) been able to reduce the speed of the vehicle from 43mph to at least under 20mph in that time, even looking at the (possibly artificially darkened) YouTube footage. If, as it seems, the area is more brightly lit, they would have had time to stop the car.

      2. Tikimon Silver badge
        Angel

        Humans see intentions, cars only react afterward

        "A normal human driven car would still have run over the cyclist/pedestrian/lemming..."

        Speak for yourself, and please stop driving! I posted about this yesterday. Humans excel at something the algorithms utterly cannot do: determining INTENTIONS. I would see a woman with a bike and keep an eye on her, prepared to react if she moved into the road. I don't wait until she's IN the road so I'm ready to react in time to dodge. No self-driving car can do that, nor will they in the foreseeable future.

        Humans can also interpret events that cars cannot. A ball rolls into the street - you know a child might follow it, the car would not expect that. There's a dog beside the road - is it preparing to cross the road, eating a french fry, or sniffing a signpost? You can interpret its behavior pretty closely and be prepared.

        Game, set and MATCH to humans. Sometimes we're stupid or distracted, but our greater understanding of the world means we're still safer.

        1. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

          Re: Humans see intentions, cars only react afterward

          Humans excel at something the algorithms utterly cannot do: determining INTENTIONS. I would see a woman with a bike and keep an eye on her, prepared to react if she moved into the road.... Humans can also interpret events that cars cannot. A ball rolls into the street - you know a child might follow it, the car would not expect that.

          While I agree with your point that the original poster should stop driving if he thinks no human operator could have avoided this crash, I disagree that algorithms can't do the things you say they can't.

          With the correct design, all of the things you mention should be well within an autonomous vehicle's reach. In fact, they should be better at them. They should be more likely to see the woman at the side of the road, and be prepared for that tiny movement which could indicate she is about to step into the road. They should be able to react more quickly to the ball rolling out into the road, take more appropriate action, and then react more quickly to the child appearing behind the ball.

          With the machine learning which is going into this, they should be able to pick all this up very quickly. The default position should be "I don't recognise this situation, I'll take some precautions and be ready in case it turns bad". Once enough data has been provided back to the machine learning algorithm about this kind of event, it will start to have a good idea of how it will turn out and be able to decide for it'self the appropriate action to take. When this is pooled from all the cars on the road, it should learn very quickly and be much better than a human driver (or as good as a potential human driver who has driven as much as the thousands of cars on the road have in total, anyway).

          However, the caveat here is "With the correct design". What Uber seem to have done is defintiely not this. They have gone for convenience over safety. Their default position is "I don't recognise this situation, I'll just ignore it and let the meatbag deal with it (and not tell them about it)". When combined with the fact that the meatbag must enter data during the journey, taking their concentration completely off the road to do so, it was only a matter of time before this happened.

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: Humans see intentions, cars only react afterward

            With the machine learning which is going into this, they should be able to pick all this up very quickly.

            What machine learning?

            From what I've seen these are constraints-based algorithms not neural networks, that get tweaked by developers - that are too scared to sit in the cars that use their algorithms....

            I suspect if the developers were compelled to sit in the cars during these trials then perhaps they might develop self-driving cars that were safe, or find another job...

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Humans see intentions, cars only react afterward

              "I suspect if the developers were compelled to sit in the cars"

              Roller coasters do it right. First they test with sandbags, then the software engineers ride.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Humans see intentions, cars only react afterward

          "A ball rolls into the street - you know a child might follow it, the car would not expect that. "

          This happened to my mother. She stopped., The driver coming the other way didn't. The kid got minor injuries and the driver got prosecuted for careless driving.

          SOME humans would expect it, _with_ training. Once programmed to expect it, ALL cars with the same programming will anticipate the child.

          The problem is the programming, not the computer. Google gets it right. It's perfectly possible to predict where a human (or animal) will walk based on where they're looking and where they're currently heading. Further, a robot is good at continuously looking for stuff a human might miss, like movement/feet visible in the gap under the parked cars ahead.

          The fault in this case lies in USA car-centric laws that almost always (it's a state level thing) say that pedestrians WILL give way to cars and/or WILL NOT cross the road except at designated locations sometimes only when permitted to. When you program based on those assumptions being canonical you have a robotised killing machine mowing down everything in its path.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Humans see intentions, cars only react afterward

          "Speak for yourself, and please stop driving! I posted about this yesterday."

          One of the problems we face with drivers is that they drastically overestimate their abilities. In this instance you would not have seen the woman with the bike and been prepared to react if she moved into the road. Whilst the LIDAR saw the cyclist 6 seconds before impact, looking at the video frame by frame an human driver would have had 1.5 seconds from the first glimpse of the lower part of the wheels and a little under that to realize that it was a cyclist. The very best a prepared alert driver can react and brake is 0.7 seconds. In accident reconstruction it's normal to use 1.5 seconds between. A controlled study has found that the average is 2.3 seconds.

          You "might" have been able to avoid that cyclist, but real world data suggests that the vast majority of drivers would not have done so.

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: Humans see intentions, cars only react afterward

            > looking at the video frame by frame an human driver would have had 1.5 seconds from the first glimpse

            Not been keeping up with the discussion, the video being on a typical cheap digital camera is not representative of the actual lighting level on that road at that time of night. Additionally, even the videos that show a more accurate lighting level don't take into account what a night adjusted human eye can see.

            However, in saying this, it is clear that for the Uber 'driver'/passenger to be doing work, they would need additional illumination inside the car, which would mean their night vision would be at best on a par with the official video footage. [Aside: It amazes me how many people in the UK drive at speed with their interior lights on and/or a large bright (not light level adjusted) SatNav screen in their normal field of vision, significantly impairing their night vision, particularly in areas of no streetlights - like motorways and dual carriageways; I suspect they are drastically overestimating their abilities...]

            >Whilst the LIDAR saw the cyclist 6 seconds before impact

            This should be raising serious questions! Given where on the road the accident happened, the speed and direction in which the pedestrian was walking in, there is no way the person could have moved from a pavement/sidewalk without being seen much much earlier! So immediately we know that either the LIDAR was very poorly set up or a p*ss poor LIDAR detector was being used - I suspect both, particularly when you compare the official video with third-party video's and overlay the information to resolve the blurred lighting - the LIDAR was most probably getting confused resolving light sources and distances.

            Interestingly, this case also shows that the algorithms being used by Uber do not track 'objects of interest' and determine whether their projected trajectory might result in a collision. Because then it would have seen the person step off the sidewalk...

      3. 2Nick3 Bronze badge

        "A normal human driven car would still have run over the cyclist/pedestrian/lemming so I don't see how they could have caused the death."

        A normal Volvo would have engaged the emergency braking feature, which was disabled by Uber. They turned off the feature that was designed to help in this exact scenario - distracted driver, low visibility, object/person moving into the path of the car.

        I'm not a big supporter of all of these "take responsibility off of the driver" technologies, as they aren't common across all cars, and drivers don't adjust well when they don't have them. I've been in a rental car with a driver who, because there wasn't a light on the side mirror telling them there was someone in his blind spot, changed lanes without looking. The other driver's reaction saved us. He was used to the feature in his own car, and the rental didn't have it. Having that "don't change lanes" light created a new behavior in him, so when the light wasn't there he didn't react properly.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          "Having that "don't change lanes" light created a new behavior in him"

          Why? That light is an AID and is not a legal substitute for turning your head and looking.

          If you change lanes without checking during a driving test in most countries (mirror AND head turn) it's an automatic fail. If you get caught doing it after you get your license, it's a prosecution for careless driving regardless of the existence of a blind spot warning light.

      4. 404 Silver badge

        "A normal human driven car would still have run over the cyclist/pedestrian/lemming so I don't see how they could have caused the death."

        No. That road is brightly lighted up, video notwithstanding, I've driven down there myself at night.

        If you've ever been to Scottsdale or Mesa, they have money there, lots of it, and they light up the roads.

    3. anothercynic Silver badge

      @Martin-73, I'd second this, although with the caveat that the programme director who chose not to include a second person in the car (and hence burdening the driver with the touchscreen entry) should rather be prosecuted than the driver.

  2. Brian Miller

    State of pedestrian irrelevant

    The pedestrian does not control the car. It is up to the driver to do so. Since the pedestrian was detected six seconds before impact, the car should have been slowing, if not actively applying the brakes.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. John H Woods Silver badge

      Six seconds at 43mph (18m/s) ...

      ... is plenty of time to slow to dead stop at 0.3G, it's hardly emergency breaking and how the hell would it be 'erratic behaviour' ... slowing down, even gradually, to avoid impact? Are they really prioritizing a "smooth ride" over not actually bumping into stuff?

      If Uber want to spend 4 seconds waiting for the driver to do something (why?) they could still have dead stopped at 0.9G in the last 2 seconds which, though uncomfortable, was still easily doable (especially in the prevailing road conditions). Even a single second of full braking would probably have avoided the fatality, and anyone with more than half a brain must know that once you are in the last second there is ZERO chance of effective back-up driver intervention, and the system might as well do the very best it can from that point on.

      The rental car I'm currently driving can already stay in lane; follow the vehicle in front at a set distance if that is less than the set cruising speed; and still brake the car hard if there's an object in front of it (while displaying a BRAKE NOW message and sounding a shrill alarm). This vehicle, in that mode, is doing more "self driving" than Uber was doing on that day, and if I hit a pedestrian because I was, say, responding to a new route suggestion on the Sat Nav, nobody would accept the excuse "but this car is supposed to be self-driving"

      Uber basically put a person in a car that doesn't really qualify as self driving, told them it was self driving, and crossed their fingers. Absolutely disgusting behaviour, even by their own bottom of the barrel standards.

      1. SiFly

        Re: Six seconds at 43mph (18m/s) ...

        Also, you know, the horn could have been used to signal to the cyclist ... why didn't the system activate the horn ....

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Six seconds at 43mph (18m/s) ...

          "why didn't the system activate the horn "....

          I see. So you are from the school of driving who sounds the horn if they see something in the road, then mow it down six seconds later when it hasn't obligingly moved out of the way.

          This was not an emergency situation were the cyclist needed to be informed about an approaching car they were unaware of. It was a situation where the car needed to stop, avoid the cyclist or inform the human "driver" in adequate time. There are better ways of alerting the human driver than sounding the horn.

      2. SiFly

        Re: Six seconds at 43mph (18m/s) ...

        It occurs to me maybe the UBER software was asking the driver what was in front of it on the road ?

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Six seconds at 43mph (18m/s) ...

        "Uber basically put a person in a car that doesn't really qualify as self driving, told them it was self driving, and crossed their fingers. Absolutely disgusting behaviour, even by their own bottom of the barrel standards."

        It also raises the point that nothing less than a fully autonomous car is going to be safe on the roads. If an in attentive "driver" is supposed to take over in an emergency in anything less than a level 5 system, then this incident demonstrates clearly that a properly trained person who is employed to monitor the cars driving can't react in time, what likelihood has Joe Public got of being better? IIRC it's already been demonstrated that keeping a humans attention on the road while not in control is difficult and the delay between not in control and taking control is significantly longer than for someone driving manually.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Six seconds at 43mph (18m/s) ...

          "It also raises the point that nothing less than a fully autonomous car is going to be safe on the roads."

          That's the point that Google's been making for quite a while.

        2. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

          Re: Six seconds at 43mph (18m/s) ...

          If an in attentive "driver" is supposed to take over in an emergency in anything less than a level 5 system, then this incident demonstrates clearly that a properly trained person who is employed to monitor the cars driving can't react in time, what likelihood has Joe Public got of being better?

          But, as has been pointed out by others, he wasn't being attentive at the time. He was filling in data which Uber had requested. His attention was completely off the road at that point, something which shouldn't be happening without a fully autonomous system.

    3. Tigra 07 Silver badge

      Re: Brian Miller

      I'd like to (probably being the first) to point out how well this system appears to work. I couldn't spot that cyclist until probably half a second before impact. If the emergency braking wasn't turned off (by some idiot) then this would have been a good example of how well driverless cars can save lives.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Brian Miller

        @Tigra 07

        The footage shows what was captured by the front-facing camera, which is effectively blind in the night time conditions at the time of the incident (think taking night time shots on a cheap/few years old smartphone). If this had been the actual sensor info that the car was using to drive it would have had to be banned from night-time driving (or more likely any type of driving).

        According to most reports a human driver with normal vision would easily have spotted the cyclist in time to avoid an incident, as indeed the self-driving car's LiDAR did. The only difference between the two is that the human driver would most likely have done something to avoid colliding with the cyclist, whereas the self-driving car was programmed not to, so it just mowed her down. You're going to have to look elsewhere to find an example of a self-driving car even potentially saving a life.

      2. steelpillow Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: Brian Miller

        "I'd like to (probably being the first) to point out how well this system appears to work. I couldn't spot that cyclist until probably half a second before impact."

        YouTube is a poor substitute for being there. Having nearly hit several cyclists during my many decades of driving in all conditions, and having been actually hit by a car and narrowly avoided others during my cycling years, I can vouch that cyclists are a darn sight more visible than YouTube would suggest. I once stopped dead in a one-way street because a dozy kid stepped out right in front of me without looking. But I was alert and watching the pedestrians, I stopped literally with my front wheel over his toes but not quite touching. The first thing he saw was my front wing where his legs ought to be. Oh, the comical expression of surprise on his face! Had he been a cyclist high on drugs, I would still have been ready. OTOH I confess I once nearly killed a cyclist, but that was because I was in a hurry and broke the rules to (literally) cut a corner. Luckily the cyclist was alert and managed to avoid me. So I have been there from all sides.

        A vehicle driver must always drive so that they can stop in the distance they know to be clear. If the conditions are too dark to see clearly then you must slow down until you can stop within your own narrow puddle of light. If you do not slow down in poor visibility then you are driving dangerously.

        OK not everybody is that competent a driver, but that is just the kind of human failing that auto systems are intended to fix. But Uber baked the shitty drivers in by design. That is a FAIL in any language.

        1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: Brian Miller

          There are several youtube vids people took of that same route under the same conditions. You can see the road very clearly, and would have to be blind not to see a pedestrian with a bicycle.

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Brian Miller

        " I couldn't spot that cyclist until probably half a second before impact"

        As others have pointed out - that camera footage is doctored and the road is well lit. You would have seen the pedestrian the moment she stepped onto the road.

        Nonetheless, even if the road was pitch black (as the roads I drive at night are) and the camera was accurate, you would still see the pedestrian _at least_ 2-3 seconds out.

        Most dashcams at night have utterly abysmal sensitivity when there's no external lighting. The Uber footage is on par with my cameras on the roads I drive, which have no lighting whatsoever except the car's headlights. Even then I can see at least 2-3 seconds ahead. As a number of commentators have pointed out the road is required to be lit ahead by headlights for _at least_ the vehicle's stopping distance.

        I believe Uber was attempting to fool people into believing the road was unlit/poorly lit.

        It fooled me until i saw other footage, because what I saw was on par with what my cameras would show - but even then I know from experience that the pedestrian would have been driver-visible long before the camera picked her up (She would have already been clearly visible to a driver in that frame where her shoes _begin_ to show up in the camera) and as such I was wondering why the car or safety driver hadn't reacted, especially as it was clear she'd already crossed at least one traffic lane and as such had been clearly visible for some time.

        What the footage showed immediately was the lie of "the pedestrian jumped out of the bushes" narrative being put out by the local sherriff's department, which makes you wonder about _why_ they made that statement and why no further investigation of it has happened.

    4. Paul 195
      Flame

      Re: State of pedestrian irrelevant

      I couldn't agree more with you.

      This: "Toxicology results showed she [the pedestrian] tested positive for methamphetamine and marijuana." seems completely irrelevant in view of the fact that she was run over by a vehicle that had plenty of time to stop. But the cynic in me says Uber will at some point try to spin this information to deflect public approbation away from them.

      They have form in this area: https://gizmodo.com/uber-settles-lawsuit-alleging-it-obtained-rape-victim-i-1821156541

  3. SVV Silver badge

    It's not a bug, it's a feature

    Nice to hear that old chestnut again. A whole 19 minutes before it killed someone. Care to inform us what you consider an acceptable MTBF (mean time between fatalities) is before you continue testing your invention that you've invested heavily in to make you all rich ?

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      Re: It's not a bug, it's a feature

      A feature that kills pedestrians.

      Which (inside the head of Uber executives) means "Not anyone who pays us any money."

      That about right?

      I'd say that makes the Uber C-suite a bunch of Unters

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge

        that makes the Uber C-suite a bunch of Unters

        I see what you did there

  4. 404 Silver badge

    Sooo.... wait...

    Uber turned off the emergency braking portion of the 'AI', and of all the options it probably should have been programmed with (avoidance, *some* braking, big fucking light/sound screaming at the driver, etc)..

    This van digitally went 'KIIIIIIYAAAA!' and ran the human over... Uber Fuck It Option. Damn.

    0_o

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Sooo.... wait...

      A warning for the driver wouldn't have helped, since she was distracted by having to type crap into her computer (per Uber job requirements - she wasn't playing around on Facebook) there's no way her reaction time would have been sufficient to stop the car in only 1.3 seconds. Humans can't context switch from a completely different task that quickly.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Uber turned off the emergency braking portion of the 'AI'

      No, worse. They left that on, but disconnected the wires. The car "knew" it needed to break. Uber prevented it from doing so. If they disabled that part of the AI, they would have an ability to hide their negligence, but here it is made obvious.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Uber turned off the emergency braking portion of the 'AI'

        "The car "knew" it needed to break."

        It did break - the pedestrian. Because it failed to brake, thanks to that being disabled.

    3. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      "This van digitally went 'KIIIIIIYAAAA!' and ran the human over.."

      Ahh. The light dawns.

      They plan to offer this as an option for military vehicles in foreign war zones.

      Where "Put the foot down and run the furriner over" is not so much a crime as SOP.

    4. PickledAardvark

      Re: Sooo.... wait...

      When I first read The Reg's report, I thought there had been some misunderstanding or that the NTSB had fumbled the wording. I read a few other reports which clarify the NTSB report slightly but confirm that the Uber had no automatic emergency braking system.

      I can understand why Uber disabled the manufacturer's safety systems in the Volvo XC90. It wouldn't have been a good idea for the car to have two independent systems driving the car; it's not comparable to multiple linked systems which are used to fly aircraft. Everything else is inexplicable to me.

      1. Cuddles Silver badge

        Re: Sooo.... wait...

        "I can understand why Uber disabled the manufacturer's safety systems in the Volvo XC90. It wouldn't have been a good idea for the car to have two independent systems driving the car"

        I don't really see what the problem would be if the systems have entirely separate functions anyway. You have Uber's system doing the actual driving part, plus an emergency override that only comes into play to stop the car if the main system screws up. The excuse of "avoiding potential erratic behaviour" simply doesn't add up - automatic braking is installed in commercially available cars, if it was erratically hitting the brakes all the time, they'd be off the road in no time and Volvo would be facing massive fines for putting such dangerous cars on the road to start with. As it is, I'm not aware of a single incident caused by auto-braking misfiring, and you can guarantee the media would be all over it if it actually happened.

        Long story short - Uber are lying. Volvo's braking system is not an erratic mess that would interfere with their own system; the only way it could cause problems is if they've actively programmed their cars to drive in a dangerous manner that would trigger emergency stops. As with so many of Uber's baffling decisions, the only possible conclusion seems to be that they're either terminally stupid or actively malicious, and quite possibly both.

        1. PickledAardvark

          Re: Sooo.... wait...

          "I don't really see what the problem would be if the systems have entirely separate functions anyway. You have Uber's system doing the actual driving part, plus an emergency override that only comes into play to stop the car if the main system screws up."

          I think you misunderstand the concept of "testing". Uber's cars are on the road to test their AV functionality. One test of Uber's AV functionality is to avoid an accident. Not Volvo's.

          Separate functions? The Volvo emergency braking system might have used its sensors to detect a potential collision and used modulated braking in a straight-ish line to stop. An AV system might detect a hazard and move right or left to a different lane, perhaps braking earlier and approaching a hazard at lower speed. Let's try both at once, with two systems on the brake pedal and steering wheel -- or three if the human operator gets involved.

          1. Stoneshop Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: Sooo.... wait...

            An AV system might detect a hazard and move right or left to a different lane, perhaps braking earlier and approaching a hazard at lower speed.

            If the AV system was already braking and/or moving to change lanes, Volvo's system would not have needed to act. Unless the braking/swerving was insufficient, and Volvo's system was still detecting the pedestrian as an obstacle in the path of the vehicle at the moment it should start to act to avoid hitting them.

            It's a backup system designed to act in case other actions look to be insufficient. Normally those actions are by the driver, but as the AV is taking that place it should be a backup for that too. Unless the AV has proven collision avoidance routines, and even then I don't see why such a backup should be disabled. You can prove the collision avoidance on a test track, randomly shoving all kinds of objects to be avoided as well as objects you can just run over with impunity, out into the path of the cars being tested. Under all lighting circumstances, all kinds of weather, all kinds of road conditions. And then you go out on the road in the real world with an attentive driver. If there's a need to enter manual logging during the test drives, then a second person should do that.

          2. Cuddles Silver badge

            Re: Sooo.... wait...

            "Separate functions? The Volvo emergency braking system might have used its sensors to detect a potential collision and used modulated braking in a straight-ish line to stop. An AV system might detect a hazard and move right or left to a different lane, perhaps braking earlier and approaching a hazard at lower speed. Let's try both at once, with two systems on the brake pedal and steering wheel -- or three if the human operator gets involved."

            I think you've rather missed the point. The entire problem is that there is no AV system; Uber have not designed or installed any way for the car to make emergency stops, and they require the human "operator" to focus on tasks that prevent them taking any action themselves. It's not a question of having two or three separate systems all trying to do the same thing, they've simply disconnected the existing system and left it at that.

  5. imanidiot Silver badge

    Just for this:

    Instead, according to Uber, “the vehicle operator is relied on to intervene and take action. The system is not designed to alert the operator,”

    Uber should be banned from ever developing a self driving vehicle ever again. The sheer stupidity of this decision is mindboggeling

    1. Notas Badoff

      Re: Self-driving, not self-stopping

      They developed a self-driving car, and it was. They disabled the self-stopping feature. *That* was plain bonkers.

  6. Z80

    If I'm reading that report correctly, the woman was hit by the right side of the front of the vehicle after the human driver made a steering input to the right. I guess she didn't have enough time to assess which direction the pedestrian was moving after finally noticing her on account of not paying enough attention.

    1. Aaiieeee
      Stop

      This bothers me too. The situational awareness of the 'driver' was totally lost. Has it started to rain? Is the a HGV close behind? Is the driver aware of current speed so as to estimate and action stopping distances within 1.3 seconds? What are other cars doing? etc

      1. Adam 1 Silver badge

        If being aware of these things is the driver's job, then being a data entry clerk cannot be a simultaneous task. You can't expect a human to diligently perform both tasks at the same time. Human brains aren't wired that way.

  7. Wellyboot Silver badge

    Beyond contempt

    Uber had less AI working in this car than the ones I can actually go and purchase now.

    Thanks to $deity I've never given them a penny but I would like to spend one on the senior management.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge

        Re: Beyond contempt

        I'm not blaming the AI, it can't help when the safety features are deliberately switched off. Uber execs considered the risks involved with (very?) early stage testing as acceptable.

        Did Uber use public roads just to save the cost of test track time?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not ready for prime time

    As has been noted by technically astute industry people these prototype AVs are not ready for prime time operation and have no business on public roadways until they are independently tested and certified to be safe, secure and reliable. Federal governments worldwide have abdicated their responsibility to the public by allowing these compromised vehicles to operate on public roadways.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not ready for prime time

      From the likes of Uber you are correct. Google on the other hand haven't put a foot wrong, any incidents involving them have not been their fault, and would have occurred with a meat sack in control as well.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not ready for prime time

        > From the likes of Uber you are correct. Google on the other hand haven't put a foot wrong, any

        > incidents involving them have not been their fault, and would have occurred with a meat sack in

        > control as well.

        Thats because most of their test miles driven are on 101 and 280. Freeways. Where at least in the case of 280, I can use cruise control on a regular basis. Stick Googlecars on real city streets like say El Camino and they run into buses. The accident at El Camino and Castro in Mountain View being the classic example. A human driver would have known that any bus in lane 3 accelerating away from a bus stop was not going to stop for right turn traffic in a blocked turn lane. The bus driver could not see the obstacle at the kerb. All they saw was just another idiot in a SUV doing random stuff.

        All self drive cars are dangerous. Their software stacks are all as shambolic as the Uber one. The only difference is the sensor arrays. Which range from the utterly negligent to the barely adequate in absolutely perfect driving environment.

        Roll on the negligent product liability lawsuits.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Not ready for prime time

          "The bus driver could not see the obstacle at the kerb. All they saw was just another idiot in a SUV doing random stuff."

          No, the bus driver saw a SUV signalling and turning into his lane in good time, following all the rules, yet carried on regardless in an intimidatory manner despite the SUV having right of way, with predictable results.

          This is a good example of WHY humans in control of heavy machinery are a bad idea. He's far from the only asshole bus driver around. In my home town bus drivers were complaining about school run bicycles, so the police put a few cops on intersections one day. They warned a few dozen cyclists about unsafe behaviour (mostly no hands and 3 abreast), but prosecuted more than a dozen drivers for dangerous driving, in particular it was noted the bus drivers were nudging bikes with their vehicles whilst consistently jumping red lights and causing pedestrians to have to scatter at one intersection.

          1. Stoneshop Silver badge
            FAIL

            Re: Not ready for prime time

            No, the bus driver saw a SUV signalling and turning into his lane in good time, following all the rules, yet carried on regardless in an intimidatory manner despite the SUV having right of way, with predictable results.

            Actually, the Google Lexus SUV sideswiped the bendy bus at its joint, so a good way back from the front. Even if it was already signalling to pull away from the kerb before the bus was level with the car, it only started moving once the bus was fully beside it.

            And never mind the stupidity of pulling up from standstill into the path of a moving and much heavier vehicle, the moving lane simply has precedence. Maybe one of the drivers will allow you in, but that takes active acknowledgement from both sides.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Not ready for prime time

        "Google on the other hand haven't put a foot wrong, any incidents involving them have not been their fault, and would have occurred with a meat sack in control as well."

        If someone points out the incident where the google car crashed into a bus, I'll point out that the car signalled to go around the obstruction and was being cautious. The bus driver took no account of the vehicle ahead of him even though it was obviously trapped in its lane and need to go around an obstacle and had the car gunned it as a human would have the bus was required to give way to it. When the car realised the bus driver wasn't slowing down it stopped and the bus driver just ploughed right into its corner instead of going around it.

        That's no great surprise. I've seen asshole bus drivers like that in a number of cities, including ones who _deliberately_ take off car doors. not their bus, not their insurance. etc.

    2. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: Not ready for prime time

      Uber maybe - but there is no evidence that the various other manufacturers are doing anything so stupid as disabling the braking systems, failing to alert the driver that the car thinks braking is probably needed...

      By your logic we shouldn't ever train learner drivers, because they aren't certified as safe, secure and reliable yet.

      Actually, we shouldn't have anyone driving anything...

      1. Paul 195

        Re: Not ready for prime time

        Except learner drivers are usually accompanied by an experienced instructor with dual controls, * who is paying attention because he isn't expected to be doing paperwork while instructing *

        1. John Robson Silver badge

          Re: Not ready for prime time

          "Except learner drivers are usually accompanied by an experienced instructor with dual controls, * who is paying attention because he isn't expected to be doing paperwork while instructing *"

          Pretty sure that the same rules should be applied here...

          Interestingly of course in the UK the driving examiner is expected to make notes.

          And that's clearly with someone not yet qualified...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Not ready for prime time

            Except that the examiner has a distinct advantage over an instructor. If a learner does something unreasonable with an instructor, in general the instructor will continue the lesson. If the same thing happen on your test, the examiner immediately aborts the test. It is a reasonably common occurrence for a test examiner in the UK to walk back to the test centre, leaving the student stranded in the car until the instructor finds them and picks them up. I knew someone at school who that happened to them twice during tests.

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Not ready for prime time

              "I knew someone at school who that happened to them twice during tests."

              I'm surprised that they weren't permanently blacklisted from being tested after that.

              1. Stoneshop Silver badge
                WTF?

                Re: Not ready for prime time

                I'm surprised that they weren't permanently blacklisted from being tested after that.

                I failed my first car test. Not because of some egregrious error, but because the examiner had had a serious accident during an exam a year before. Because of that he became quite anxious, and braked more than I did when approaching a fork in the road (no actual need to reduce speed for the shallow left bend I should be taking and both forks free of any traffic for over several hundred meters, no stop signs). Examiner takes control? Fail.

                His condition was known to the instructor, who was not allowed to tell me, and to other instructors and examiners as well (I asked around afterwards). Despite this he was still licensed to take exams.

          2. Stoneshop Silver badge

            Re: Not ready for prime time

            Interestingly of course in the UK the driving examiner is expected to make notes.

            And that's clearly with someone not yet qualified...

            Sufficiently qualified to go up for examination. It's not something the instructor puts you up for after the first lesson.

            And for my motorcycle license the note calling me up for the exam allowed me to go there on my own motorcycle. But that was 25 years ago, things may have changed in that respect.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Uber

    Why am I not surprise?

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Uber

      Because Uber are scumbags...

  10. tim292stro

    This confirms my suspicion, that the SW stack from sensor fusion on down (well after the sensors themselves) was to blame. That and the completely moronic decision tree at Uber that led to a vehicle having all control of a vehicle except the >>>safety<<< controls. I agree with other posters here that there needs to be a federal fine and probably a prohibition on Uber ever going near AV development again. This car saw the person conflicting with the vehicle, couldn't make heads or tails about what was going on but wanted to stop - and was prevented from doing so by an administrative decision. Kind of like a new driver being on the road with an annoyed parent in the passenger seat, and the new driver coming across a situation they are not certain how to handle and wanting to stop, and the parent blindly yelling - "JUST KEEP GOING!!" without looking up from their iPhone. Total negligence on Uber's part.

    Of course I just had a vehicle totalled by a real Uber driver on April 30th, 2018 - because his passengers told him to "make a u-turn", and he just did it. Across 3+ lanes of 30MPH traffic coming up from behind him and oncoming. Without looking first. In a cut-through in the median where left and u-turns were forbidden. After stopping to pick up passengers in a bike lane that was very clearly posted "No Stopping Any Time". Yeah, none of those descisions were right either. I managed to not kill or injure him or his passengers even though I was driving a 6,000lb 1980's Chevy Blazer, and he was driving a little 20-teens Honda Civic 4-door.

    I'm still shocked that anyone intentionally works at Uber any more or that they haven't been sued out of existence long ago...

    1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

      @tim292stro - "I agree with other posters here that there needs to be a federal fine and probably a prohibition on Uber ever going near AV development again."

      While I'm in general agreement, I would suggest that the entire Uber Board of Directors and the VP with direct control of this project should be jailed for manslaughter.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
        Megaphone

        I like the idea of jailing them for manslaughter. But the alternative would be to tie them up and sling them in the back seats of a bunch of their shitty non self-driving cars, and then setting the lot of them to go round the Indy 500 circuit at full speed. Then see if any of them survives the 500 laps, perhaps with a few armoured cars chucked out there for variety.

        Any survivors will then learn why you should connect the fucking brakes you morons!

        1. J. Cook Silver badge
          Pint

          @ I ain't Spartacus:

          And film it, or televise it on pay per view.

          Death race, anyone?

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          "sling them in the back seats of a bunch of their shitty non self-driving cars, and then setting the lot of them to go round the Indy 500 circuit at full speed. "

          Any self-driving car can do circuits.

          Add solid moving obstructions and then you're testing them.

  11. Richocet

    What could they do to be even bigger arseholes?

    Try to attack the reputation of the deceased victim by investigating her toxicology.

    The video clearly shows that the pedestrian with the bike didn't jump in front of the car or do anything erratic.

    I am appalled.

    1. Brenda McViking
      Facepalm

      Re: What could they do to be even bigger arseholes?

      What, you're suggesting a report into the fatality should start censoring factual information now?

      I sincerely hope you're never involved in a root cause investigation...

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Re: a root cause investigation

        I don't see what her physical state has to do with the fact that this accident could have been avoided if the driver simply had his eyes on the road.

        Besides, the article is misleading because returning positive for substance abuse does not indicate just how positive the victim was and frankly, I don't give a damn. She could have been tripping over Saturn, she should still be alive today and she would be if it weren't for a despicable company having yet again taken every single shortcut to profits.

        Uber is directly responsible for placing a broken and dangerous vehicle on public roads and mandating the driver to not look at the road periodically to fill in fucking administrative paperwork. It's basically manslaughter with intent, and I hope Uber's management will get nailed to the wall on this.

    2. DougS Silver badge

      Re: What could they do to be even bigger arseholes?

      Hey I hate Uber as much as the next guy, but where does it say that Uber investigated her toxicology? That's standard police practice in a fatality - it isn't as though Uber had the ability to order her autopsy and what tests would be conducted as part of it.

      Now clearly it had nothing to do with the fact she was hit, and while some initial defenders were suggesting she should have crossed at a crosswalk (which could be up to half a mile away depending on where in Phoenix this happened, for those who have never been there) it is clear 100% of the fault rests with Uber, and not the pedestrian or the poor woman in the car who was doing her job as Uber instructed (i.e. having to enter a bunch of crap into her computer, compromising her ability to act as a safety driver)

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: What could they do to be even bigger arseholes?

        "or the poor woman in the car who was doing her job as Uber instructed (i.e. having to enter a bunch of crap into her computer, compromising her ability to act as a safety driver)"

        IANAL, but in legal terms, she was in charge of the vehicle. "Only following orders" isn't an excuse since corporate rules/instructions can't override the law. In law, she should have refused or quit. In practice, people will take risks and sometimes they lose.

  12. Ahab Returns

    Sensors and electrickery may work when it is brand spanking new, but what happens when it is ten years old and getting an annual MOT, maybe?

    My three 12 year old cars regularly throw up sensor faults, from oxygen sniffers to ABS - what do we do when the "don't run over that kid on the crossing" sensors go bad?

    My 45 year old car has zero sensors (it only has a dozen or so wires) and no airbags. I really concentrate when driving that. Oh, and it is far more reliable than any of my moderns (or my neighbours brand new BMW that cost more than my first house).

    1. tim292stro

      Design Life Limitations

      "...Sensors and electrickery may work when it is brand spanking new, but what happens when it is ten years old and getting an annual MOT, maybe? My three 12 year old cars regularly throw up sensor faults, from oxygen sniffers to ABS - what do we do when the "don't run over that kid on the crossing" sensors go bad?..."

      Anything with electrolytic capacitors has a useful life limit of about 10 years, then the seals leak or the caps dry-out, and the whole thing starts behaving badly. I had a '93 Toyota pickup with a speedometer that stopped working - turned out the stiffening cap on the +5V rail after the regulator leaked, ate the copper trace to the point it wouldn't support the stepper driver's current, then the remainder of the trace blew like a fuse. Simple enough to fix with a new $0.30 cap and some wire to bridge the burnt trace if you have ever worked on electronics, but the dealership tried to sell me a $1500 instrument cluster, then they wanted to charge the labor to put it in...

      There is a reason nobody in the automotive world offers a >10 year warranty ;-)

      IMHO, more electronics seems like a solution to whatever ails the automotive industry, but the potential waste stream from all of these is huge. Assuming anyone tries to keep these vehicles on the road past the design life, and that's assuming the manufacturer was making customer-oriented descisions when they produced the parts (yeah right).

      1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

        Re: Design Life Limitations

        @tim. Knackered electrolytics won't be a problem in the brave new world of the manufacturers because they want us to buy cars the way we buy phones. Mobility as a service means that I buy miles by the month or year and either get a car to go with them or use a local pool of cars. It will be better for everybody - honest.

        I went to a lecture recently by the bloke who makes hydrogen cars in Wales. He wants to run this model - lease the car and everything, including fuel and servicing, is included. He pointed out that car manufacturers only get a small fraction of the driver's total spend during the lifetime of the car - the initial cost of the car. The rest of the money we spend - insurance, fuel, servicing, spares, second hand sale, etc. - all go to someone else, and the manufacturers want it. By going to a lease model or a service model they think they can get more of it. So if they get their future then buying a car will be a simple as choosing a phone and tariff from Vodafone, O2, EE, etc. or signing up for an UBER-type autonomous vehicle scheme based an annual mileage. It will be better for everybody - honest.

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Re: Design Life Limitations

          My car has recently started throwing out warnings about the brake lights, even though the brake lights are working fine. I would get a quick warning about the right brake light when I hit it sometimes that would instantly clear. Then today when I started my car I got a warning about the left brake light, then the right brake light, which persisted for a 20 minute drive (at a stoplight I asked someone waiting for a bus whether my brake lights were on, and she confirmed they were)

          I guess a warning that they are out when they aren't is better than failing to warn me when they are, but in the long run if I can't resolve this I'll just get used to these false warnings and someday one of them will burn out and I won't know it. And while a left rear brake light out isn't likely to kill anyone, a broken left rear LIDAR on a self driving car just might...

          1. The Boojum

            Re: Design Life Limitations

            Alternatively, the problem can come from the opposite direction.

            On a previous car the engine warning light started flashing. A quick check of the manual came back with the instruction not to drive the car and to seek immediate assistance. So i did.

            The Recovery mechanic quickly identified the problem: a brake light bulb had blown. The reason for the engine warning light was that the engine's control software took input from the braking system to reduce fuel flow under braking. In short the car's designers identified the wrong problem and massively overstated the severity of the problem.

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Design Life Limitations

            "My car has recently started throwing out warnings about the brake lights, even though the brake lights are working fine."

            My brother's car did that.

            On investigation, I dfound that he'd somehow managed to force a 5W lamp into a socket intended to hold a 21/5 lamp.

            When one of my cars started doing it, cleaning all the socket contacts fixed the problem. In another, it was a bad earth connection (lights seemed ok as path to earth goes via the other lamps in this case)

        2. Jimmy2Cows
          Mushroom

          Re: Mobility as a service means ...

          that I buy miles by the month or year and either get a car to go with them or use a local pool of cars. It will be better for everybody - honest.

          If an example were ever needed of a concept that needs to be terminated with extreme prejudice, here it is.

        3. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Design Life Limitations

          " the bloke who makes hydrogen cars in Wales."

          Hydrogen cars _MUST_ use a lease model model with everything supplied. The risks of something going boom if the vehicles are outright purchased and then poorly maintained are too high to countenance.

          That's why the makers who test these vehicles with great fanfare never actually sell them. Hydrogen embrittlement and pressurisation cycles are an extremely dangerous combination.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Design Life Limitations

        "Anything with electrolytic capacitors has a useful life limit of about 10 years, then the seals leak or the caps dry-out"

        Nope., only if they're bad caps.

        I have equipment with 30 year old caps in them that is just fine.

        Bad caps was an issue we thought had been nailed down in the 1970s. It came back due to industrial espionage and counterfeit manufacturing. In any case if you know it can happen you design for the possibility.

        1. tim292stro

          Re: Design Life Limitations

          "..."Anything with electrolytic capacitors has a useful life limit of about 10 years, then the seals leak or the caps dry-out"

          Nope, only if they're bad caps.

          I have equipment with 30 year old caps in them that is just fine.

          Bad caps was an issue we thought had been nailed down in the 1970s. It came back due to industrial espionage and counterfeit manufacturing. In any case if you know it can happen you design for the possibility..."

          You forgot, bad quality control out of Taiwan as recently as the 2000's, and I presume you understand that anecdotal examples of still-functioning-presumably-well-cared-for-kit does not equal statistically significant data. Electrolytics can lose their electrolyte and still appear to function, but not have the same technical characteristics required when they were implemented in a circuit design (typically the capacitance begins to decay and the ESR spikes). Also don't confuse "appearance of function" with engineering design margin - in a safety critical system, the limit of the engineering margin should occur far before the system fails to behave in a way that puts safety under threat.

          All that said, I do feel I should revise my statement - 10 years is the maximum one can expect nominal performance without service intervention. As I had already described, I have presonaly repaired an instrument cluster, and just this weekend, I replaced a few caps in the standby power supply of a Yamaha AV receiver to bring it back from the dead (higher ESR from dried out electrolyte resulted in too much ripple on the standby rail, and made the microprocessor trip it's brownout reset constantly). Age related failures can be managed, but it's not a hands-off deal, and let's be honest - most auto repair shops have turned into part-replacer shops. I haven't seen one in 25 years that would do component level debugging, unless it was a classic car, numbers matching and the parts were actually impossible to obtain. Even Tesla seems to suffer from this, I've heard anecdotally that if a car throws an error code, they start carpet bombing possible causes until it goes away, then they leave in all the extra parts they installed and toss the other parts working or not - this is all second hand info though for what it's worth.

          I just went back over the big four aluminum electrolytic capacitor manufacturer site (Nichicon, Panasonic, KEMET, Vishat, etc...) looking at longevity application notes, and none of them guaranteed >15 years life, and all agreed that seal life time was the reason. Even worse, depending on hot and cold maximums, life can be exceptionally short (1,000s or 10,000s of hours). We all can appreciate the severe environments automobiles operate in, it's hardly 25C ambient on the exterior of the vehicle.

          the takeaway is no engineer would, in light of those app notes, recommend to the company's legal team that they should extend out the warranty. The more potential failure points one puts in a design, one must assume that the probability of any failure mode occuring would only increase, so you'd reduce the warranty period to only cover infant mortality and possible but unlikely edge cases, and then let the bulk of expected failures cause the customer to replace the major component or the entire product on their own dime once it begins to fail.

          Cheers! :-)

    2. Steve the Cynic Silver badge

      My 45 year old car has zero sensors

      None at all? Not even;:

      * Coolant temperature

      * Oil level

      * Oil pressure

      * Speed

      * Distance travelled ("odometer")

      * Battery charge/discharge current

      1. DougS Silver badge

        My 45 year old car has zero sensors

        Perhaps he meant to say zero digital sensors? The analog ones tend to be pretty reliable. OK, fuel floats can stop working, but analog devices to measure temperature and voltage are pretty much foolproof. The needle in the dial on the dash is far more likely to get stuck than for anything else to fail on something so simple.

        1. Alistair Silver badge

          @DougS :

          Even fuel floats from the 70's are "digital" in a way, its a passive resistance meter based on a negative voltage feed. They typically die not because of mechanical failure but because the cables to and from corrode sufficiently to toss the reading out the window. In the case of a camaro I once knew it went off when the rust levels on the crossmember the tank was strapped to consumed better than 30% of the steel.

          1. Stoneshop Silver badge

            Even fuel floats from the 70's are "digital" in a way

            As in "works" or "doesn't". While working it is analog, with the current through a variable resistor showing on a meter in the dashboard. And the ones I've seen were all single wire, meter fed from + battery, other side of the resistor to chassis.

        2. tim292stro
          Megaphone

          "...The analog ones tend to be pretty reliable. OK, fuel floats can stop working, but analog devices to measure temperature and voltage are pretty much foolproof..."

          You are glossing over the other problem with the tight integration for digital systems rather than analog sensors: What is interpreting the collected data. This is where I really balk at AVs removing all drivers from the road - a code flinger sitting in a cube will program the ECU/BCM/Autonomous system to rely on only what is made available to it. Since it's too expensive to put a sensor of everything, and sensors fail, the decision tree to resolve what is actually the problem will be very limited in some cases (a roundabout way of saying the result will be wrong - and probably often).

          In ye olde days, where your fuel sensor was a variable resistor attached to a float, and the signal varied the current on a wire which heated a bi-metal element in a gauge based on that current - if something went wrong, to the "skilled" (i.e. anyone who had to deal with the cars available), a stuck fuel gauge became obvious rather quickly. Likewise an engine water temperature sensor that suddenly spiked when the vehicle ran over a bump (suddenly meaning faster than the physics of heating water with an engine allows for), you could tell that the value was B.S. In that case the data was presented to the human operator, and they applied their experience with their specific vehicle to determine the validity of the data in relation to the total vehicle function.

          Most engine computers etc. are designed to catch the large distribution cases - a specific vehicle with a specific chronic problem may thus be an outlier, and the ECU may mis-diagnose a problem. I am reminded of my wife's '90's Chevy Cavalier which after running over an extension ladder on the freeway never stopped complaining about how the emissions system was out of spec - because GM put the wiring harness from the ECU right under the front bumper where it was most likely to be hit by road debris. I'm also not aware of any vehicle manufacturer who currently implements a smell sensor or a camera underneath, to detect leaking coolant, power steering fluid, transmission fluid, or oil - even though the driver can easily look at the spot the parked in after they leave or before they get in, and the smell of each fluid is unique. They wait until the problem has gotten pretty severe (low level) to detect/report it.

          We in the USA already put a majority people on the road who don't care to understand maintaining their vehicles, how to interpret what the vehicle is telling them. I lament how much less useful we are trying to make ourselves in order to save the 0.012% of the population that dies as a result of automobile accidents. I take the less popular position that we need fewer safety warnings and more heard thinning...

        3. Alan Brown Silver badge

          "The analog ones tend to be pretty reliable. "

          Unless wired by Lucas or made by Smiths.

      2. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Sensors

        * Speed

        * Distance travelled ("odometer")

        On nearly all 1975 cars you'll find those two driven by a cable off the outgoing side of the gearbox, and fully mechanical. It'd be quite a stretch to call those 'sensors'. The others are either analog electrical or occasionally (oil/coolant temp and pressure) still mechanical as well.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Sensors

          >* Oil level

          This tends to be a dipstick. The oil light on the dash is more of a pressure sensor - ie. there is an absence of oil - either the pump has broken or there is no or insufficient oil in the system...

          Personally, although one of my current cars has an oil level sensor, I don't use it, I still check the dipstick, that way I can top the oil up BEFORE I leave home not 10 miles down the road...

          >* Battery charge/discharge current

          This is just a very simple piece of circuitry: if there is electricity coming off the alternator/dynamo then dash light is out, no current then display ignition light. I think many forget (or don't know) just how few instruments cars had prior to circa 2000.

    3. I am the liquor

      Re: what do we do when the "don't run over that kid on the crossing" sensors go bad?

      I expect the answer from the car-makers will be "you'll have to take over manual control." And then we just have to hope that after 10 years of relying on the computer, we're somehow better-prepared to do so than this Uber car-supervisor was after 19 minutes.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: what do we do when the "don't run over that kid on the crossing" sensors go bad?

        "And then we just have to hope that after 10 years of relying on the computer, we're somehow better-prepared to do so than this Uber car-supervisor was after 19 minutes."

        Many years ago, when I worked local and rarely drove more than 50-100 miles per week, I was stuck at home ill for just over week and never left the house. Getting back into the car was a strange feeling for the first 20-30 minutes. Nowadays, I drive about 60,000 miles per year and had a similar length of time off work, no driving at all, and getting back into the car felt a bit strange for maybe the first 5 minutes or so.

        I can only imagine how weird it would be for people doing an average 10-20 mile trip to work every day without having to take charge at all for years at a time, suddenly being faced with having to take control.

  13. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Über

    What else?

  14. Dagg
    Pint

    Its an Uber

    It only self stops to pickup passengers. Anything else is collateral damage....

    1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

      Re: Its an Uber

      If it only stops to pick up passengers it's going to get pretty crowded in there

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sadly I called it.

    In the last news story on Reg about this, that Uber moving operations was an admittance of guilt.

    It's hard to say if Ubers manager ment of the system is to blame, or the lack of awareness/response from the in board driver. Perhaps they both share responsibility.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sadly I called it.

      If the reports that the safety driver was distracted by having to fill out contemporaneous feedback about the drive are true then the blame is all on the managment at Uber.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm reminded of the satirical comment about Wernher Von Braun "I aim at the stars, but sometimes I hit London."

  17. hoola

    Presecutions

    The bottom line is that there simply has to be some prosecutions here. If I had a crash because I could not stop due to the brakes being disabled there would be all sorts of laws being thrown at you.

    Because this is seen as tech and all the crap associated with it , they are above the law.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Headmaster

      Re: Presecutions

      Presecutions ?

      Can't seem to find that word in the OED but I can find it in the Mrs Malapoop special edition dictionary.

      1. John H Woods Silver badge

        Re: Presecutions

        It's probably in the orthinology book

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Presecutions

          +1 for the word-botching reference (and a thank you to Humph, too)

  18. dukelukem

    "traveling on a well-known test route"

    Well known to who exactly?

    1. 's water music Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: "traveling on a well-known test route"

      Well known to who exactly?

      It's to whom, not who I live with

  19. _LC_
    Alert

    "emergency braking switched off by design"

    "emergency braking switched off by design"

    As much as this may sound scandalous to a non-tech person, this is not an issue. IT HAD TO BE TURNED OFF. They cannot have two 'autonomous systems' battling each other.

    Nonetheless, those cars are not even in beta stage. They should not be allowed on roads. There are other ways to test them, which are just as good (sensorial infusion).

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: "emergency braking switched off by design"

      "IT HAD TO BE TURNED OFF"

      Disagree. Volvos ship with EB enabled, for humans. Uber could have designed its software to work with Volvo's emergency system, but it didn't. EB was disabled, and the software wasn't good enough to avoid someone crossing the road.

      C.

      1. PickledAardvark

        Re: "emergency braking switched off by design"

        "Uber could have designed its software to work with Volvo's emergency system, but it didn't."

        Without source code and design specs, I do not see how Uber could have integrated their AV system with Volvo's safety system. Volvo's system had to be turned off in order for Uber's to drive the car. Otherwise there would be three systems potentially trying to operate the brakes and throttle -- Uber, Volvo and car operator.

        * Uber emergency braking system did not appear to exist.

        * Volvo emergency braking was disabled.

        * Car operator was distracted and the AV did not have an alert system.

        Uber's fault but for different reasons.

        1. BoldMan

          Re: "emergency braking switched off by design"

          In that case Uber is utterly the wrong company to develop this sort of software if they can't integrate with the existing control software of the vehicle. It should be Volvo doing the development OR Uber (laughs uncontrollably) do their jobs properly and negotiate access to the Volvo source code to integrate it fully.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: "emergency braking switched off by design"

          "* Volvo emergency braking was disabled."

          Volvo emergency braking is just that. Emergency braking. For when all else has failed.

          There's absolutely nothing incompatible with having it enabled whilst the Uber software is driving, because if the uber software is working correctly the emergency braking will NEVER EVER ENGAGE.

          The fact that Uber disabled it shows a level of hubris that defies belief. If it had ever engaged with an "AI" in control then it's an indication of complete and utter failure of the AI and of the supervising human.

          There's a concept in aviation safety - belt, braces, safety pin. Uber threw away the safety pin, tied a knot in the braces and didn't do the belt up.

        3. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: "emergency braking switched off by design"

          >Without source code and design specs, I do not see how Uber could have integrated their AV system with Volvo's safety system. Volvo's system had to be turned off in order for Uber's to drive the car.

          It really depends on how the Uber system interfaces with the car. If the Uber system effectively only replaces the human driver and thus interfaces to the car via the standard controls: accelerator, brake pedal and steering wheel then there is no reason to turn off the Volvo system. If however the Uber system is more invasive and requires a lower-level of connection then there could be problems, but only if the Uber system was poorly designed...

          This also goes to the heart of the AI myth. If the Uber AV was an AI then like a human it would learn to detect when the Volvo system steps in and respond accordingly. However, as the Uber system is just a dumb algorithm, because it doesn't 'see' the person in the road, it doesn't infer that the brakes being applied, fuel flow being cut and auto-steer are helping to avoid the unseen person and instead would try and compensate by applying the gas and steering differently...

    2. bwp

      Re: "emergency braking switched off by design"

      Volvo's system is designed to work with other autonomous systems: humans. I don't see the problem here.

  20. tip pc Bronze badge

    would a human have seen the pedestrian in time and stopped?

    I hope i would have stopped but the linked video shows impact at 8 seconds but you don't see a hint of something might be there till 5 seconds and thats with the benefit of hindsight, even the driver glances up and doesn't see anything till just over a second before impact which is just about when we see the pedestrian on the camera. The pedestrian was crossing through a black spot / unlit portion of road and was only visible when the car lights shone on her. The fact the car knew something was there 6 seconds before impact is quite astonishing and would have been useful info for the driver to know about to do something about it and would have prevented this death.

    I'm assuming the car raises a huge amount of false positives which is why they turned that feature off, and warning chimes constantly going off would be soon ignored and unnerving for paying passengers.

    I'm guessing the normal XC90 safety systems would have stopped the car.

    Uber are fully to blame here for requiring too much of the drivers attention while also knowing the driver was the only emergency braking control on the vehicle. They did not pay enough attention to safety, i think the question will be though, would a human have seen pedestrian and stopped?

    1. PickledAardvark

      Re: would a human have seen the pedestrian in time and stopped?

      "I hope i would have stopped but the linked video shows impact at 8 seconds but you don't see a hint of something might be there till 5 seconds..."

      The video is misleading according to local people. The stretch of road is well lit and a human would see it as much brighter than in the video. A local person might have slowed in anticipation of pedestrians crossing at the stretch of the road. Alert non-locals would have braked.

      "I'm assuming the car raises a huge amount of false positives which is why they turned that feature off, and warning chimes constantly going off would be soon ignored..."

      Reducing false positives is one reason for testing AVs in real world environments.

    2. Alister Silver badge

      Re: would a human have seen the pedestrian in time and stopped?

      Short answer, yes a human would have seen the pedestrian in time.

      The Uber video shown is not representative of the actual lighting conditions on the road at the time of the accident.

      If you look here https://arstechnica.com/cars/2018/03/ you will see a whole different story.

      1. tip pc Bronze badge

        Re: would a human have seen the pedestrian in time and stopped?

        If you look at the start of the Uber video carefully you can see something reflective in the left hand lane a short moment after the start of the video. That does suggest the video is unusually dark and watching other videos of the road you can see it’s better lit than the Uber video suggests. So I think I would have avoided the accident entirely by switching lanes and slowing. I probably would have blown my horn as I passed the pedestrian as a moan that they crossed when traffic was on the road without apparently looking.

        There where many opportunities to avoid this death.

  21. This post has been deleted by its author

  22. Conspectus83
    WTF?

    Your ass is grass

    I find it unbelievable that a major safety system was switched off that could have saved a life. It seems to be that life is cheap for big corporations. This situation reeks of the Ford Pinto scandal https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Pinto.

    Accountability must be put into place before anymore testing of driverless cars is allowed on the roads and that includes everyone, passengers as well.

    If people know that they can end up with a prison sentence, what happened was manslaughter (in my opinion), there will be more emphasis on safety.

    At the moment its a race to be first but the race rules, race stewards and race finish have not been properly implemented or even thought of.

    I know of two deaths, there could be more, with driverless cars while in testing. One death is one too many.

    From top to bottom people should know that if something like this happens again 'your ass is grass' and that should go for state legislators as well.

    Money talks but life should not be so cheap make people 'Accountable'!

  23. Tim Soldiers

    FWIW

    The linked video was a poor quality dashcam affair.. I have seen many photos of that road at night and its far better lite than you think.

  24. Yugguy

    Who Made Who?

    Maximum Overdrive is here, I tell you.

    It'll be a cold day in hell before I ever ride in one of these things.

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Who Made Who?

      It'll be a cold day in hell before I ever ride in one of these things.

      But you may well encounter one.

      Maybe even as a pedestrian or cyclist.

      Now what? In the US, your path of action would include a honking big LIDAR reflector, a Gatling or RPG, and a weapons-grade lawyer on retainer.

      In more civilised countries your chance encounter with a rogue AV should be way lower.

  25. fidodogbreath Silver badge

    Depends on your perspective

    It's to avoid 'erratic vehicle behavior'

    Emergency braking is only "erratic" from the point of view of the car's passengers.

    That's probably not the descriptor you'd use if you're the pedestrian or cyclist, though.

  26. EUbrainwashing

    lighting

    You can view this street on Google street view and it appears to have plenty of street lights. The video is no as reactive as the human virus to various light conditions - you can look into darker areas and the iris opens, the camera if fixed on the illuminated area and if it allowed for the darker areas the better lit areas would be burn-out.

  27. bwp

    Is this bad?

    Sure, I'd love to see criminal negligence charges. But more important: I'd like to see how the driving record of Uber compares to that of Tesla etc, to that of humans. The question is not whether they kill people, but whether they kill more people than people kill.

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