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Uber's fatal accident shows the best and worst self-driving cars



Will robotic cars be our saviors or our hangmen?

Let's ask the millions of people who saw the dashboard camera video of a self-driving vehicle running down Elaine Herzberg and killing her on the night of March 19, Tempe, Ariz. The footage shows that the driver was not paying attention when his Volvo SUV equipped with Uber's autonomous vehicle system did not respond to the sudden appearance of a man in the middle of the road.

Herzberg's Death at The Hand of a Robot questions the hype surrounding self-driving cars. They should be better than us, safer in the dark because of laser sights and high-speed sensors. But the weather was clear that night. The street was empty.

According to the police, there was no indication that the vehicle had activated its brakes before the accident. And the accompanying video of the driver indicates that no collision warning was given.

Uber gives up autonomous vehicle testing rights in California.

"The technology should have seen the pedestrian in advance," Dr. Steven Shladover from the Department of Transportation at the University of California at Berkeley, who watched the video. "The fact that it is not disturbing."

Uber immediately interrupted his test program. On Monday, Arizona governor Doug Ducey Uber relinquished his right to test in the state after greeting the company with open arms.

Nevertheless, it seems unlikely that it will lead to a sustained slowdown in the autonomous vehicle test and eventually

Besides Uber and Nvidia, the semiconductor company whose chips serve as the head for many autonomous vehicles, Toyota is the only other major Company that abandons the tests in response to the accident, and only in the US and only for its fully autonomous "chauffeur" program, not its semi-autonomous "watchman" program.

Waymo Buys 20,000 Jaguars for Robotic Carriage Service

While city officials have applied for a temporary test moratorium in Boston, California has confirmed testing in the state may continue under current regulations. Waymo, the AV department of Google parent company Alphabet, has just ordered 20,000 Jaguars for its robot fleet. Waymo is not subject to the Arizona ban and will continue to test in Phoenix.

  DEC. 13, 2016 FILE PHOTO

Uber's autonomous car starts a test drive in San Francisco in 2016.

(Eric Risberg / AP)

There were expectations that the first fatal accident involving an autonomous Tesla Model S in 2016 would postpone autonomous vehicles for years. In fact, the opposite happened. Waymo vehicles, for example, drove 2 million miles in self-driving mode in 25 cities in 2017, the company said, increasing its total autonomous mileage to 4 million as it accelerated the tests and later embarked on the launch of the Ride-hailing Likewise, Uber has been driving 2 million autonomous miles since 2016, with the last million autonomous miles driven in just 100 days before the Las Vegas CES technology show in January.

In short, the industry has learned from the accident and moved on quickly. This will probably be the case again this time.

A study by the National Transportation Safety Board is in progress, as well as investigations by the companies involved, including Uber and key suppliers such as Nvidia.

But unlike most accidents friendly, there is no question about what happened. The accident was caught by at least two on-board cameras on video. The actions of the vehicle and the driver before and during the accident were recorded. This could be one of the simplest accident investigations that Tempe police ever had, and one that provides valuable data to prevent future accidents.

Despite the accident that killed Herzberg, indications are the technology that flows into autonomous vehicles works to some extent. Even without full driverless autonomy, semi-autonomous technology such as accident avoidance and lane detection in standard cars is increasingly becoming a standard option and should reduce the number of people killed, as well as the replacement cameras already reduce the fenders on the parking lots of shopping centers.

Technology can save lives in other ways. According to Tina Quigley, General Manager of the Southern Nevada Regional Transportation Commission, the city of Las Vegas wants to use autonomous vehicles with Wi-Fi connectivity to monitor the roads and provide real-time information about road conditions, traffic, weather and accidents. The information is used to lead maintenance crews to potholes and roadside hazards and first responders to accidents that may save lives.

"The real crisis that is seething in this country is distracted," said Grayson Brulte, co-chair of the Beverly Hills Autonomous Vehicle The Autonomous Vehicle Task Force points out that by 2017, nearly 6,000 pedestrians will be involved in traffic accidents nationwide killed more than 20% more than in 2014. "Autonomous vehicle technology is the only way to stop it."

but industry must think about how many innocent lives are sacrificed on behalf of a safer driving experience.

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