(Repeats with Graphic)
By Heather Somerville, Paul Lienert and Alexandria Sage
TEMPE, ARIZONA / PITTSBURGH, March 27 (Reuters) – When Uber decided in 2016 to withdraw its fleet of self-driving Ford Fusion Cars in favor of Volvo Sport Utility Vehicles, has also chosen to go back to a remarkable technology: the safety sensors that are used to detect objects on the road.
This decision, after interviewing five former employees and four industry experts speaking for the first time, led to a self-driving vehicle with more blind spots than its own previous generation of autonomous cars and competition over Uber's technology switch.
Driverless cars are designed to prevent accidents with lidar ̵
Looking back on a single Lidar on the Volvo, Uber introduced a blind zone around the SUV that pedestrians can not fully recognize, according to interviews with former employees and Raj Rajkumar, head of the Carnegie Mellon University Transportation Center over a decade of self-propelled technologies. (For graphics, see tmsnrt.rs/2pJG7kw)
The Lidar system from Velodyne – one of the top suppliers of self-propelled automotive sensors – sees objects in a 360-degree circle around the car, but has a close one vertical reach, which prevents obstacles from being detected on the ground. This is evident from the information on the Velodyne website and from former employees of the Uber SUV.
Autonomous vehicles from competitor Waymo, Alphabet Inc.'s self-driving vehicle unit, have six lidar sensors, while General Motors Co's vehicle contains five vehicles according to company information.
Uber declined to comment on his decision to reduce his Lidarzahl. In a late Tuesday statement, a Uber spokeswoman said, "We believe that technology has the power to make transportation safer than ever, and recognize our responsibility to contribute to safety in our communities." While developing self-propelled technology, it is Safety at every step of our main concern. "
About transmitted Velodyne questions about the blind spot. Velodyne admitted that with the Lidar on the roof there is a blind spot about three meters long around a vehicle and more sensors are needed.
"If you want to avoid pedestrians, you need a side lid to see and avoid these pedestrians, especially at night," said Marta Hall, President and Chief Business Development Officer at Velodyne Reuters.
The safety of Uber's self-driving car program is under intense scrutiny after Elaine Herzberg, 49, was killed last week after an SUV in autonomous mode hit and killed her while chasing her bike in Tempe. Arizona.
The exact causes of the Arizona accident are not yet known, and it is unclear how the vehicle's sensors worked that night or whether the blind spot of the lidar played a role. The incident is being investigated by local police and federal security agencies, who provided only a few details, including whether Uber's decision to downscale his sensors is being reviewed.
Uber said that it cooperated in the investigation and took all its autonomous cars off the road, but has not provided any further details about the accident.
Like the older Fusion model, Uber's top competitors place several smaller lidar units around the car to reinforce the central roof lidar. An expert in this field, for example, offers a more comprehensive coverage of the road.
The previous Fusion test cars used seven lidars, seven radars and 20 cameras. The newer Volvo test vehicles use a single lidar, 10 radar and seven cameras, Uber said.
Since Uber launched a self-driving car program in early 2015, it has set out to catch up with Waymo, who started using technology in 2009. Uber Management moved quickly and confidently, though some auto engineers took care to send former employees, in a hurry, to drive more cars for more miles.
Seven experts who reviewed the crash agree that a self-driving system should have seen and slowed down Herzberg. She had crossed almost the entire four-lane, empty road before it was hit from the front right side of the vehicle. The night was clear and the street lights were lit.
"Radar is supposed to make up for the Blind Spot of Lidar," said Rajkumar.
Uber declined to comment on his radar system. Volvo Car Group, owned by China's Geely, declined to comment. A Ford spokesman said the company was not engaged in Ubers use of the merger or self-propelled technology that was used on the cars.
Of course, besides the Lidar Blind Spot there are many other reasons for the crash. There could have been a software error in the Uber car, said Richard Murray, an engineering professor at the California Institute of Technology and the former head of the Caltech self-driving student team.
"But that would be pretty surprising, because nothing else was on the road," he said.
THE BLIND ZONE
A Uber diagram of the Fusion model states: "Front, rear, and wing lid modules help detect obstacles near the vehicle and smaller obstacles that can be lost in blind spots. "
A diagram of his Volvo version shows a single lidar system on the roof. In reducing its LIDAR units, Uber decided to rely more on radar to detect obstacles that could end up in these blind spots, according to company statements.
When Uber unveiled its self-driving Pittsburgh operation in September 2016, he still used the Fusion, but had a Volvo on display. Uber employees pointed to the smoothness of the SUV and the relatively small roof mount with just one lidar system, a more attractive upgrade to the Fusion, which looked more voluminous with more sensors on the outside.
A former employee said that Uber's decision to reduce to a lidar was based on the additional sensors on the fusions, suggesting that the many lidars were redundant as Uber developed its self-propelled system.
Uber's decision to switch from fusion to a much larger vehicle compounded the problem of a blind spot from a single lidar unit, the former employee said, because the lidar now sits higher on an SUV and sees its ability to reduce vision Deep objects – from squirrels to the wheels of a bicycle or the legs of a person.
A former Uber employee who tested both mergers and Volvo SUVs said Volvo had not seen the tailgate of a delivery van that extended onto the road in a test run at the end of 2016, and the car nearly 35 Ride could have come miles an hour.
Uber declined to comment on specific test incidents, but said his technology is constantly being updated and improved, and every incident in the car is logged and checked out by an engineer.
Additional coverage by Salvador Rodriguez in San Francisco
and Eric Johnson in Seattle; Editing Joe White and Edward