March 28, 2018

Uber, Autonomous Vehicles, And "Edge Cases" in Arizona

While the rush to get autonomous vehicles onto the road and testing has meant that many jurisdictions have relaxed their requirements, The New York Times has reported that there has been challenges with Uber’s robotic vehicle project for months before the killing of a pedestrian in Tempe Arizona. It appears that the autonomous vehicles (AV) were having challenges driving through construction zones and next to big scale vehicles, with Uber drivers intervening frequently. And now the numbers are starting to come out~Waymo says that their self-driving cars go an average of 5,600 miles before drivers needed to steer out of trouble, while “Uber was struggling to meet its target of 13 miles per “intervention” in Arizona, according to 100 pages of company documents obtained by The New York Times and two people familiar with the company’s operations in the Phoenix area but not permitted to speak publicly about it.”
In November there were unfortunate remarks of Dara Khorowshahi, Uber’s chief executive who made a case for complete separation of this AV technology from other active transportation road users stating  “With autonomy, the edge cases kill you, so you’ve got to build out for all the edge cases.Which makes it a very, very difficult problem.” Tricky road situations include cyclists and pedestrians, “edge cases” that are hard to predict. Mr. Khorowshahi visited Phoenix to ride in an Uber car without “human intervention” to demonstrate that the cars could handle the edge cases.
The state of Arizona had previously  taken a hands-off attitude to AV’s and did not require any disclosure on the cars’ performance. The Los Angeles Times reports that the Arizona Governor has now halted all Uber tests in the state calling the killing of the pedestrian “an unquestionable failure”. This was not helped along by the auto-parts maker which supplied the Volvo SUV’s radar and camera stating that Uber had “disabled the standard collision-avoidance technology in the vehicle.”
As an automotive analyst for Garner observed “The collection of bad news around Uber creates a reputation in people’s minds. Every other company would get a black eye, too, but they might be forgiven. For Uber, it’s going to be hard to shake.”


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