13th edition of the 6th year of SmartDrivingCars

Saturday, March 24,  2018

cid:<a href=Experts say video of Uber’s self-driving car killing a pedestrian suggests its technology may have failed

R. Mitchell, Mar 22, “Police late Wednesday released a video that shows an Uber robot car running straight into a woman who was walking her bicycle across a highway in Tempe, Ariz. The woman was taken to a hospital, where she died Sunday night.

The video, shot from the car, is sure to raise debate over who’s to blame for the accident.   In the video, the victim, Elaine Herzberg, 49, appears to be illegally jaywalking from a median strip across two lanes of traffic on a dark road. But she was more than halfway across the street when the car — traveling about 40 mph, according to police — hit her. The car did not appear to brake or take any other evasive action….

Bryant Walker Smith, a law professor and driverless specialist at the University of South Carolina, said: “Although this appalling video isn’t the full picture, it strongly suggests a failure by Uber’s automated driving system and a lack of due care by Uber’s driver as well as by the victim.”…”  Read more  Hmmmm…  “…”What we now need is for the release of the radar and lidar data,” Princeton’s Kornhauser said in an email. (Lidar is a sensing technology that uses light from a laser.) “Obviously, the video of the driver is extremely bad for Uber and probably implies that Uber should suspend all of its ‘self-driving’ efforts for a while if not for a very long while.

“The ‘self-driving’ systems are supposed to have ‘professional’ overseers who are really supposed to be paying attention during these ‘tests’. Apparently Uber didn’t make it clear in this case.”

Kornhauser questioned the police description of a situation that would have been difficult to avoid. He said Uber should reveal what its collision-avoidance software was doing during the couple of seconds before impact.

“The front-facing video suggests that this person was crossing the lane at a slow speed and should have been noticed by the system in time to at least apply the brakes, if not stop the vehicle completely,” he said. “While a human may not have been able to avoid this crash, a well-designed, well-working collision avoidance system should have at least begun to apply the brakes.”…”
”  …  Again, my sincerest condolences to Elaine Herzberg’s family and friends.

The simple arithmetic is:  She crossed more than a lane and a half before being struck or more than 15 feet.  Average walking speed is about 4.6 ft/sec which means that she was “visible” on this stretch of road for more than 3 seconds.  Uber’s speed of 38 mph =  55.7 ft/sec means: Uber was 150 ft away when she began crossing the left-hand lane and could have been visible by an alert driver.  The car’s lidar and radar surely must have “seen” her beginning at about that time.   Car stopping distance including “thinking time used in The Highway Code” @ 38mph is 110 feet.  The driver should have been able to stop 40 feet short.  Any Automated Emergency Braking (AEB) system should have been able to stop the car in little more than the stopping distance of 72 feet, half way to Elaine.  This simple arithmetic suggests that there may be a very funtamental fatal flaw in Uber’s AEB.

And the driver was not paying attention.  At 3 seconds prior to impact, Elaine was within a 12 degree field of view when she began to cross the left lane. While outside the fovea, this is well within a normal gaze had the operator been looking out the window. 

The released video is from a “dash cam” and is unlikely to be the video captured by Uber’s “Self-driving” system (or whatever Uber calls it).  That video may well be at a much higher resolution and frame rate.  Uber MUST release that video (not just the dash-cam video) as well as the radar and lidar data that was being used by their “Self-driving” system.  Uber was testing its system at the time of the crash and therefore MUST have been logging those data in case something went wrong.  Uber needs those recorded data in order to have a chance to learn what went wrong and fix it.  Something did go wrong, very wrong.  Uber and everyone else MUST also have the opportunity to learn from this tragedy.  So Uber MUST release all of the data.  Alain

imap:// Driving Cars Podcast Episode 30

Investigating the Uber self driving crash that killed pedestrian Elaine Herzberg: In Episode 30 of the Smart Driving Cars Podcast, Princeton University’s Alain Kornhauser goes in depth on why it could and should have been avoided. He chats with Fred Fishkin about the impact of the crash on other testing programs and how the technology should move forward.
Hmmmm…. Now you can just say “Alexa, play the Smart Driving Cars podcast!” .  Ditto with Siri, and GooglePlay.  Alain

Real information every week.  Lively discussions with the people who are shaping the future of SmartDrivingCars.  Want to become a sustaining sponsor and help us grow the SmartDrivingCars newsletter and podcast? Contact Alain Kornhauser at!  Alain

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imap:<a href= Uber’s Self-Driving Cars Were Struggling Before Arizona Crash

D. Wakabayashi, Mar 23, “Uber’s robotic vehicle project was not living up to expectations months before a self-driving car operated by the company struck and killed a woman in Tempe, Ariz.

The cars were having trouble driving through construction zones and next to tall vehicles, like big rigs. And Uber’s human drivers had to intervene far more frequently than the drivers of competing autonomous car projects.

Waymo, formerly the self-driving car project of Google, said that in tests on roads in California last year, its cars went an average of nearly 5,600 miles before the driver had to take control from the computer to steer out of trouble. As of March, 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….

“With autonomy, the edge cases kill you, so you’ve got to build out for all the edge cases,” Mr. Khosrowshahi said at a conference in November. “Which makes it a very, very difficult problem.”….” Read more Hmmmm…  This is very discouraging.  This isn’t an edge case.  Detecting a pedestrian with a bicycle crossing a road is not an “edge case”.  It is really should be a “sweet spot”  of any AEB system.  Can you imagine what state Uber’s Self-driving trucks are in if their main business, cars, is this bad?  Alain

cid:<a href=LIDAR Maker Velodyne Shifts Away Blame In Fatal Uber Self-Driving Crash

R. Felton, Mar 23, “… On Friday, Velodyne, which makes LIDAR sensors used by Uber, said its technology isn’t at fault in the crash….Marta Thoma Hall, president of Velodyne Lidar Inc., maker of the special laser radar that helps an autonomous car “see” its surroundings, said the company doesn’t believe its technology failed. But she’s surprised the car didn’t detect 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg as she pushed her bike across a road in Tempe, Arizona, around 10 p.m. on Sunday.

“We are as baffled as anyone else,” Thoma Hall wrote in an email. “Certainly, our Lidar is capable of clearly imaging Elaine and her bicycle in this situation. However, our Lidar doesn’t make the decision to put on the brakes or get out of her way.”…
…”  Read more  Hmmmm…  Yup!  Alain

cid:<a href= Are driverless cars safe enough to be on the road? No one knows. That’s a big problem

Editorial Board, Mar 23, “Driverless cars offer a future with fewer deaths on the roadways. Today, roughly nine out of 10 car crashes are caused by human error; autonomous vehicles, with their sensors, radars and undistractable computer-driven system, should be much safer. That is, they should be much safer eventually.

But they still have some glaring shortcomings, a point that was underlined in tragic fashion this week…”  Read more  Hmmmm… The “they” is obviously Uber, but may not be everybody.  In my assessment so far, the scenario that led to the tragic Uber crash was not a “corner case” and should have been in the “sweet spot” of the kinds of crashes Automated Emergency Braking (AEB) systems are designed to avoid… clear road ahead, moderate speed, object crossing in a narrow unobstructed field of view with good sight-lines,  in good weather with plenty of time to apply the brakes.    This should have been a “piece of cake”.  Much easier that “a deer jumping out of the bushes just in front of the car”.  I suspect that similar scenarios were encountered several (many) times by others and a crashes were averted in the many miles of testing that have been done to date.  Those that have gone through their testing libraries should publish those maneuvers to show that crashes were avoided.  I’m also confident that all the key players in this business ran this scenario in their simulators as soon as the police information was released.  They each tested if their system would have averted this crash. Those that are still out there running, I’m sure determined with high confidence that they could have easily handled this scenario.  Most are substantial companies whose reputation and valuation is at stake.  The smaller ones are in jeopardy of losing everything.  They aren’t loose cannons.  Uber may lose 10% or more of their valuation because of this crash.  Alain

cid:<a href=Toyota, NuTonomy halt self-driving programs as Uber fatality ripples across autonomous car landscape

 M. della Cava, Mar 22, “…The ripple effect of a deadly incident involving an Uber self-driving car in Arizona widened as two companies including Toyota said they were halting self-driving car testing programs.   “For us, it’s about the well-being of our (safety) drivers, because an incident like this can be jarring, and they’re out there every single day,” Rick Bourgoise, communications manager with Toyota Research Institute, told USA TODAY…. Read more  Hmmmm… Or is it when they went through their test data they haven’t experienced a similar scenario and when they ran their simulators they found…Yipes!??  Alain

cid:<a href=China gives Baidu go-ahead for self-driving tests after U.S. crash

A. Jourdan, Mar 22,  “China’s capital city has given the green light to tech giant Baidu Inc to test self-driving cars on city streets, indicating strong support for the budding sector even as the industry reels from a fatal accident in the United States.  Beijing’s move is an important step as China looks to bolster its position in the global race for autonomous vehicles, where regulatory concerns have come into the spotlight since the crash earlier this month….”  Read more  Hmmmm… While we aren’t in an “arms race” and this isn’t the “cold war” …  Alain

cid:<a href=New Video of the Tempe Crash Looks Really Bad for Uber and Its Driver

D. Cardinal, Mar 22, “…Overall, the video appears to be fairly damning evidence that Uber’s cars and drivers are not ready for the scale of testing on public roads the company has undertaken. Fortunately, Uber has pulled its test vehicles off the road in response to the crash, but the incident raises a lot of new questions about the company’s commitment to safety and the maturity of its self-driving effort….” Read more  Hmmmm… Alain

imap:<a href=How a Self-Driving Uber Killed a Pedestrian in Arizona

T. Griggs, Mar 21, “A woman was struck and killed on Sunday night by an autonomous car operated by Uber in Tempe, Ariz. It was believed to be the first pedestrian death associated with self-driving technology….” Read more  Hmmmm… Not much new here except image of where the crash took place.  Very pertinent to the above. Alain  Uber Tempe Video Shows A Crash Self-Driving Cars Should Be Able To Avoid — Time For Regulations

S. Abuelsamid, Mar 21, “After a pedestrian was struck and killed in Tempe, Ariz., on Sunday night by one of Uber’s automated driving prototypes,  the city police initially seemed to think it was an unavoidable accident. However, a completely different picture emerges from video footage that the Tempe police released Wednesday, and it now certainly appears as though the Uber system failed to perform its most basic function in near-ideal conditions.

The original police reports gave the impression that the woman who was struck, Elaine Herzberg, suddenly jumped out of the shadows into the path of the Uber vehicle. While it’s true that to the human eye, she appeared suddenly out of the shadows, that’s only because she was wearing dark clothes on a dark, unlit street. By the time the vehicle’s headlights caught her, it might have been too late for a human driver to react fully…. Read more  Hmmmm… One can’t rely on the dash-cam video, but needs the video used by the “Self-driving” system.  What did their system think that it “saw”, when?  Alain

cid:<a href=“People are super comfortable riding in elevators”: Can we shape people’s attitude to driverless cars?

A. Martin, Mar 23, “…“People are super comfortable riding in elevators”: Can we shape people’s attitude to driverless cars?..David Silver: a former driverless car engineer at Ford, who now heads up Udacity’s driverless car educational courses….“I think what we as an industry need to do a better job communicating to people is the number of lives saved by putting driverless cars out on the road and removing humans from the equation,” he said. …So how can the industry get over that sense of unease, especially when one fatality can take up all of the headlines for a week?…Perhaps a better comparison is the first truly driverless vehicle, already over 100 years old. “People are now super comfortable riding in elevators,” Silver says. “It didn’t take that long – if there were lots of elevator accidents, people would be concerned but the elevator companies are very, very responsible about their product and people are fine with it.”.   It’s a good analogy, but not a perfect one. Elevators are on a set track, and they don’t have to interact with human-driven pods in the same shaft….”  Read more  Hmmmm… I always use the elevator analogy.  We just need to get to a point that we realize that sensors and algorithms are really as tangible as shafts nd fail no more often than shafts.  That’s a significant hurdle, bu not an insurmountable one.  Alain

imap:<a href=The Future Networked Car – 8 March 2018

M. Sena, April 2018,  “THE ITU/UNECE SYMPOSIUM ON “THE FUTURE NETWORKED CAR” was held in Geneva, Switzerland at the Palexpo on 8 March 2018. It is an annual conference that has been held for the past thirteen years, and it is always on the opening day of the Geneva International Motor Show. …  I was very impressed with the format for the
Symposium and the quality of the panelists. There are no company pitches. … To sum it up, the SYMPOSIUM did focus on 5G and cybersecurity, but not so much on data protection and artificial intelligence. The third area that received a lot of attention was the rationale behind MVNOs. There was very strong support voiced for Cellular-V2X as the better option for both short- and long-range communication….”
Read more  Hmmmm… Michael did preface his readers by:
“Dear Readers,….
Just as I was finishing up this issue, the news arrived about the Uber taxi in humanless drive mode running into and killing a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. It is going to take a few weeks or more for all of the facts in this case to be made known to the public, so it makes little sense to speculate on who or what is responsible. As I state in the column I have written that mentions the incident, I have said before and say again that we should not be beta testing with humans.  Forbid all cars that are not controlled by an on-board human driver from using public thoroughfares. I know this is not what some or many of my readers believe, but it is my view. …”   Alain


A. Marshall, Mar 23, “HERE’S THE STRANGE thing about where I live: When I walk outside my office, down to the busy, honk-filled four-lane road that runs by it, I’m immediately part of a wide scale science experiment. A lot of us are, here in San Francisco, in metro Phoenix, Arizona, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We didn’t sign any forms or cast any votes, but here we are, in a living lab for self-driving tech.

A lot of the time, that’s exciting. One day, maybe crossing the street on foot at night won’t feeling like taking your life into your hands. This really could be the way to stop the deaths of 40,000 people on US roads every year. The blind, the old, those who can’t operate vehicles—their lives might shift wholly in a world where vehicles drive themselves.

Other times, it’s terrifying…” Read more  Hmmmm… This is not Lose-Lose but Win-Win.  The marketplaces and reality teaches us things that contemplation, simulation and Virtual Reality don’t.  If humans are going to gain value of its implementation, humans will need to be part of the initial roll out.  Alain

cid:<a href=Driverless shuttles hit the road in San Ramon, California

CBS News, March 19, “California’s first driverless buses started rolling this month on the streets of San Ramon, about 30 miles outside San Francisco. The electric shuttle can carry 12 people – six sitting and six standing. And unlike most autonomous vehicles being tested in America, there’s no human sitting in the driver’s seat to grab the wheel or hit the brakes if the technology fails. …

For Randy Iwasaki, the head of the county transportation authority, the San Ramon experiment is an exciting ride indeed.  “This is my first time… after working for months trying to get a license to be on a public street. This is pretty cool,” Iwasaki said as he and Blackstone cruised along in the back seat.”…  Read more  Hmmmm… Congratulations Randy! Watch lead video.  Alain



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  On the More Technical Side

Capsule Networks (CapsNets) – Tutorial