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Uber blames self-driving car accident that killed a pedestrian on software failure

About 2 months ago, Uber suspended its Self-Driving program after one of its self-driving cars hit and killed a lady pedestrian in Arizona, a southwestern state in the USA.

After looking into the occurrence, Uber says the software used in the self-driving car is likely to be blamed for the collision, and largely, death. The software had one job —to detect objects/obstacles and react to them either by stopping or swerving— but failed.

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The Information revealed that the car, through its sensors, actually detected the pedestrian, but the car’s software failed to see the need to move — it kept moving and killed the lady.

Uber self-driving vehicles are programmed in a way that they can detect and ignore “false positives” objects i.e obstacles that don’t warrant the car to stop moving. For example, Uber’s self-driving software will ignore a paper bag flying across that road — a false positive.

Perhaps the car took the lady on the pedestrian as a paper bag and decided immediate evasive action wasn’t necessary.

In addition, it is also believed that the reduction of LIDAR sensors (a very crucial sensor on self-driving cars) from seven to one on Uber’s new prototypes could also be a reason for the failure of the vehicle to aptly evade the obstacle (read: lady pedestrian).

After the incident, many of Uber’s partners and suppliers (Nvidia, Intel, Velodyne etc) on the self-driving project have all distanced themselves from the accident and blamed it on Uber’s software.

Uber is all alone in this, it seems.

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