Woman Killed By Self-Driving Uber; Is This The End Of Uber’s Self-Driving Experiment?

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Most of the revenue Uber collects is passed along to their drivers, so it’s no surprise that they’ve invested so heavily in self-

driving technology. They’ve already committed to buying a billion dollars of self-driving Volvos.

Uber’s self-driving technology has had hiccups before. Last year in Tempe, Arizona a self-driving car was involved in an accident, though there were no serious injuries.

Self-driving Ubers have also been caught running red lights.

But last night, a self-driving Uber killed a pedestrian in Tempe while driving in autonomous mode.

Uber has suspended their self-driving program from Arizona as well as Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Toronto.

Uber’s new CEO sent out his condolences on Twitter:

Of course, human drivers are involved in deadly accidents every day. But is humanity ready to hand over deadly machinery to robots unless they are perfect? The loss of a life is tough pill for people to swallow when it happens at the hands of technology.

However well over a million people die annually in car crashes. My guess is that later in this century, humans will be banned from driving in some locations. One day our grandkids may even wonder how we ever allowed humans to drive. But we’re clearly a long way away from that.

It’s in Uber’s best interests to keep developing self-driving technology. But incidents like this may just kill the program until the technology exists to support it without making deadly mistakes.

Of course other big companies, including Google and car manufacturers, are also heavily investing in self-driving technology. It will be interesting to see how accidents like this affect public opinion and local laws on autonomous driving.

Do you think that the world is ready for self-driving cars?

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54 Comments On "Woman Killed By Self-Driving Uber; Is This The End Of Uber’s Self-Driving Experiment?"

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matovu

great analysis.

Your write up made me think positively about this. Uber should hire a person like you.

great.

Eric from Dallas

You are getting way ahead of the facts here. Reports are the woman was crossing the street outside of the crosswalk. If the robot was not at fault (not yet determined) then it is a PR problem, not a technical one.

GTR

Unfortunately there are not (and will not be) daily headlines stating “Computer Driven Automobile Responsible for Incident Free Trip”

We’ll get there in my lifetime, but if you ask the people needlessly dying on the roads everyday they’d probably say “not soon enough.”

Eli

The question that needs to be asked is how many Self-Driving miles/hours were driven before this fatality occurred and how many human miles/hours are driven for each fatality.
A Self-Driving fatality doesn’t mean that the technology is worse then humans, fatalities occur with human drivers as well.

It may be that this technology has already outperformed humans even with this fatality.

Future

No, it does not mean the end, and self driving vehicles are still the future.

The US can’t afford to be technologically behind countries like China, and China will most certainly move forward with this technology no matter how many people they have to run over.

We really don’t have a choice.

Neil

As if the average human driver of an Uber is paying attention? When you get a traffic light and car dives across three lanes of traffic to get into the left turning only lane, or a car advances straight through a red light when only the turning light has a green arrow, 9 times out of 10 its an Uber driver who does not know the neighborhood and is just following his phone.

mileagejunkie

Autonomous doesn’t equate no deaths, that’s where AI ethics come in. While this isn’t at play yet, I’m interested to know how the accident happened because there was a driver behind the wheel. Even though it was in autonomous mode the driver didn’t have time to stop, it’s only a matter of time until they release dashcam and driver’s footage.
Regarding self-driving cars, I feel like we’re skipping a step which would be for cars to communicate with each other. Just imagine what potential could be unlocked if on top of that it was linked to the car’s navigation system; it could reduce accidents and traffic tremendously.

aek

from where things are headed ,seems our grandchildren will go to an amusement park chol hamoed to get online to self drive a car

Babka

Very sad, how incidental that it happened right after Tomb Raider was released. If you haven’t watched it, very scary concept of AI getting out of hand.

Boomie

I’m surprised. These self-driving cars can’t go over the speed limit.

Jacob

Don’t forget part of their technology will be speaking with our phones.. eventually the car will tell by the signals if a phone is coming too close to a car too fast, it might slow down automatically, like it slows down in traffic.

Nate

Dan,
One comment. You note that the Uber driver gets most of the fee from the drive. I know that to be incorrect first hand. When the Uber driver completes his trip he gets a notification how much money he made. On multiple occasions I have checked with the driver to see what he got compared to what I paid, the driver receives well under 50% of the total fare paid.

Shonuffharlem

Your all asking the wrong question. If the car was human operated would the woman still be dead? She could have jumped out in front of the car.

pau

dan where are you going for pesach? sorry for sounding nosy just curious.and are no rush credits received from no rush shipping on amazon able to be combined from different accounts into one account?

Mark

“But incidents like this may just kill the program until the technology exists to support it without making deadly mistakes.”

The only way to make that technology exist is to keep testing it in the real world.

Ma_Sands

Case in point (though I’m not sure just which point : ) Quite, quite some years ago, back towards the beginning of this century, in the little church me and my seven youngsters went to in far eastern, central MN, there was an elderly couple we loved dearly, who spent much of each year traveling. Just before Christmas one year, they were in California. The story came back that it was a dark night, and they were walking, and the lady started to cross the road at a dark point, some distance between two street-lighted crossing-corners. The man saw the car coming, and ran out to try to save his wife, but the car, coming at 50 mph, the young driver’s eyes still somewhat hampered by the lighted corner he’d passed some ways back, struck them both, killing them instantly, devastating the young driver, as well as the many, many folks who loved that couple.

john vilberg

My favorite corporate BS “We’re fully cooperating” wow so impressed..like you have a choice in the matter

David

Oh boy!!
As of today if you have a android phone Google knows everything about you
So just imagine autonomous car they know exactly where I’m going when what it’s scary !!
How about hacking carjacking all this stuff oh man i get the chills

CB

My car has technology to help it sense certain dangerous conditions and hit the brakes. I have found that in snowy conditions I get an alert that the system failed and is not operating. The failure is not something that builds up, it is just gone. Are self driving cars going to drive blind till they can slow down and stop when they lose their vision/

YitzyS

Sometimes social conditioning is so potent that even with technology to support self driving cars, it may only become illegal for human’s to drive when the generation of politicians were born in the era of driverless cars. For us, it will always intrinsically remain a novelty, and therefore, it can only become illegal for humans to drive in a future generation.

Deborah

No..flat out no

Bob

It turns out she stepped in front of the car at the last second… at night…. with dark clothing

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