Uber Crash: Self-Driving Car Saw But Ignored Woman

Uber has reportedly found that the crash involving one of its self-driving prototypes was due to a software glitch that was programmed to ignore objects in the road.

Putting it simply, the autonomous software is designed in a way to detect the objects around the vehicle and operators tweak its sensitivity to make sure it responds only to genuine threats like solid objects. However, in the Uber crash, the software was tweaked too much to ignore even the bicyclist Elaine Herzberg who passed in front of the car.

According to The Information, Uber found that the system was programmed to ignore objects that it should have considered, and this led to the fatal crash. Even though the autonomous vehicle detected Herzberg, she was categorized as a false positive.

The Car’s Complex Logic

Maybe the car’s more complex logics were at fault that hindered its decision-making capacity such as which objects to pay attention to and how to respond. The software is fed with programs like not needing to slow down for a parked bike at the side of the road, but one passing in the front of the car should be responded immediately. Possibly this information was wrongly fed into the car.

The false positive has possibly been programmed into the autonomous vehicles to make the passengers’ ride smoother. However, in this case it took one life. It might sound like a normal error in the software – a bug. But, considering the autonomous vehicles are being touted as the future, such bugs could prove very costly for the auto industry.

Reportedly, the Uber vehicle had a human driver behind the wheel, but he possibly took his eyes off the road briefly. Even though Uber has settled with the family of the victim, the Arizona government has banned the testing until the matter is resolved. Other automakers have also put their testing on hold until the Uber crash incident is settled.

Related: The Story That Will Topple Uber

The ride-hailing company is looking into the matter along with the National Transportation Safety Board.

“Our review is looking at everything from the safety of our system to our training processes for vehicle operators, and we hope to have more to say soon,” the company said in a statement.

Fatal Crash Conversations

Talking of the fatal crash, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi stated that they are not sure what could have gone wrong at this point in time. Speaking to CBS News, he said that the NTSB should move ahead with the investigation and do their job of finding out who was at fault.