The fatal accident of Uber Technologies Inc.’s self driving vehicle is reportedly a software issue, specifically a part of the system that determines which objects to avoid or ignore, according to The Information.
Uber believes the vehicles sensors detected the pedestrian as she crossed the road back in March. Two of the sources familiar with the matter said the software decided to ignore the pedestrian and continue driving, ultimately fatally striking her.
The reason the vehicle did this was because there are various types of situations where the software might see something that resembles a human or some other object and assume that it could be on the side of the road and ignore it. The system may have misdetected the woman and her bicycle, deciding it did not need to stop
Autonomous vehicles use sensors called LIDAR, a form of a radar and light detection, but in the case of the accident, the detectors may have detected the woman, but the software may have not reacted. That is why there is usually an operator within the vehicle to prevent situations like this, but according to police video footages, the driver was not paying attention.
“We’re actively cooperating with the NTSB in their investigation. Out of respect for that process and the trust we’ve built with NTSB, we can’t comment on the specifics of the incident. In the meantime, we have initiated a top-to-bottom safety review of our self-driving vehicles program, and we have brought on former NTSB Chair Christopher Hart to advise us on our overall safety culture. Our review is looking at everything from the safety of our system to our training processes for vehicle operators, and we hope to have more to say soon.” said Uber in a statement.
Amid the investigation, it now shines light on previous issues to surface. Previous reports emerge of Uber reducing its safety operators from two to one, according to the New York Times, and another one that Uber reduced the number of LIDAR sensors on its test vehicles, according to Reuters.
Another issue that emerged was Uber’s emails with Arizona’s Governor Doug Ducey, which may have allowed Uber’s self-driving vehicles to hit the roads earlier than anticipated, according to The Guardian
The emails showed that Uber was already testing its autonomous vehicles even before the public knew about it. The emails also revealed Uber offering Ducey a new workspace, praising him, and promising to drive in more money and jobs to the state.
In return, Ducey helped Uber deal with other officials in Arizona, highlighting Uber’s history with government regulators.
Whether or not Uber’s CEO Dara Khosrowshahi will suspend the program amid new reports is unclear. The company has ran into a handful of scandals previously under Travis Kalanick, which the company is still recovering from, but it has kept moving forward despite pressure from investors and its users.