But as autonomous vehicles have become more commonplace, so has criticism around a lack of safety in the technology.
Uber, Google and Tesla have all exhibited elements of ‘recklessness’ in their development of autonomous vehicles, as shown by the slew of accidents that have recently occurred, according to Gizmodo.
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An Uber SUV after hitting a woman on March 18, 2018, in Tempe, Ariz. A new report claims an Uber executive warned others of safety issues just five days before the crash took place
Crashes involving self-driving cars have led to injuries and, in some cases, even death.
And often, the autonomous vehicles escape the blame for the incident – instead, it has fallen on the human test drivers who were supposed to be watching the road.
What’s more, it’s not clear how many autonomous driving accidents have actually occurred, though there have been several within the testing programs of each of the major stakeholders in the self-driving industry.
As a result, much of the public is viewing self-driving technology with a wary eye, which presents a challenge for many of the tech giants who believe autonomous vehicles will prove to be ‘revolutionary.’
The ‘recklessness’ of the companies involved continues to be a persistent problem, Gizmodo noted.
For example, a recent report from The Information found that a fatal crash involving one of Uber’s self-driving vehicles could have been avoided.
An employee warned the ride-sharing giant that there were issues with Uber’s autonomous-driving technology just days before Elaine Herzberg, a 49-year-old Arizona woman, was struck and killed.
The email, which was sent to several high-level executives at Uber, warned that the self-driving cars had been involved in several accidents, likely due to ‘poor behavior of the operator of the AV technology,’ according to the Information.
‘The cars are routinely in accidents resulting in damage,’ Miller wrote in the email.
‘This is usually the result of poor behavior of the operator or the AV technology. A car was damaged nearly every other day in February.
‘We shouldn’t be hitting things every 15,000 miles. Repeated infractions for poor driving rarely results in termination.
‘Several of the drivers appear to not have been properly vetted or trained,’ he added.
The email warning of the safety concerns never received a response from any of the executives it was sent to.
Since the fatal crash, Uber has retooled its self-driving car testing procedures.
A fatal accident involving a pedestrian and one of Uber’s self-driving vehicles could have been prevented, as a new report claims the firm was warned of safety issues ahead of the crash
HOW DID AN UBER AUTONOMOUS VEHICLE HIT AND KILL A WOMAN IN ARIZONA?
A self-driving Uber vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian in the first death involving a fully autonomous test vehicle on March 19, 2018.
The accident prompted the ride-hailing company to suspend road-testing of such cars in the US and Canada.
The Volvo SUV was in self-driving mode with a human back-up operator behind the wheel in Tempe when a woman walking a bicycle was hit.
Elaine Herzberg, 49, died in hospital.
Police have said that the victim, 49 year old Elaine Herzberg, stepped out in front of the car suddenly and they do not believe the car was to blame.
Uber suspended its self-driving vehicle testing in the Phoenix area, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto.
The testing has been going on for months as car makers and technology companies compete to be the first with cars that operate on their own.
Uber’s self-driving car crash that led to the death of a mother-of-two could have been avoided, driverless vehicle experts have claimed.
Cortica, a firm that develops artificial intelligence for autonomous vehicles, has analysed the dash cam video.
The company concludes the car, which failed to brake or swerve before the collision, had enough time to react and potentially save Ms Herzberg’s life.
Speaking to CNET, Cortica’s CEO Igal Raichelgauz said the firm’s self-driving AI system detected Ms Herzberg 0.9 seconds before impact.
At this point the car was around 50 feet (15 metres) away.
He said the autonomous car’s cameras and radar system should have had enough time to pick up the pedestrian and react to the situation.
Driverless cars are fitted with a system of cameras, radar and lidar sensors that allow them to ‘see’ their surroundings and detect traffic, pedestrians and other objects.
An AI computer system then decides what actions the car takes to avoid a collision – a setup that is supposed to work as well at night as during the day.
A top executive for the maker of Lidar sensors used on Uber’s self-driving car said she was ‘baffled’ as to why the vehicle failed to recognise Ms Herzberg.
‘Right now the entire team is focused on safely and responsibly returning to the road in self-driving mode,’ an Uber spokesperson told Gizmodo.
‘We have every confidence in the work that the team is doing to get us there.
‘Our team remains committed to implementing key safety improvements, and we intend to resume on-the-road self-driving testing only when these improvements have been implemented and we have received authorization from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.’
And the problems extend to Waymo, owned by Google parent company Alphabet, as well.
Anthony Levandowski, the former head of Waymo’s self-driving car project, was found to have been involved in a serious crash in one of the company’s autonomous Toyota Prius.
A report from The New Yorker found that Levandowski altered the car’s software so that he could drive it on forbidden routes.
He drove the Prius down a freeway and caused an ordinary driver in Toyota Camry to pinwheel down the road after the self-driving car wasn’t equipped to handle the other car merging onto the freeway.
Levandowski jerked the car out of the way of the Camry, causing its passenger to be seriously injured, while the Camry crashed into the median.
It’s unclear what happened to the Camry and Levandowski never contacted the police.
Waymo, Uber and Tesla have all exhibited elements of ‘recklessness’ in their development of autonomous vehicles, as shown by the slew of accidents that have recently occurred
Waymo maintains that Levandowski, who no longer works for the company, isn’t representative of the firm’s values.
‘Anthony Levandowki’s disregard for safety does not reflect the mission and values we have at Waymo where hundreds of engineers on our team work each day to bring this technology safely to our road,’ a Waymo spokseperson told Gizmodo.
‘Our company was founded to improve road safety, and so we hold ourselves to a high safety standard.’
Tesla has also run into issues with how its self-driving car technology, called Autopilot, has been used by the public.
Autopilot was found to have been engaged during fatal crashes on two separate occasions.
Many have pointed out the disparity between the firm saying it offers ‘full self-driving hardware on all cars’ when, in many cases, it cannot be trusted to take over for drivers completely.
In October, Tesla stopped promoting their cars as having ‘full self-driving’ capabilities.
HOW DOES WAYMO TEST ITS SELF-DRIVING CARS BEFORE PUTTING THEM ON PUBLIC ROADS?
Waymo built ‘Castle,’ a hidden mock city that can quickly be configured to test different scenarios.
It’s located north of the Merced metro area where the Castle Air Force Base used to be an has been rented by Google since 2014.
As part of the initial two-year lease, the firm rented 80 acres from Merced Country for $456,000, being paid in $19,000 monthly installments.
It has different driving environments including residential streets, expressway-style streets, cul-de-sacs, and parking lots.
The Waymo test site is located north of the Merced metro area, where the Castle Air Force Base used to be
At Castle, the roads are named after famous cars, such as DeLorean, Bullitt, Thunderbird, Fury, and Barbaro.
For the structured testing, Waymo looks at how self-driving cars perform on real roads to determine how they need to practice – then they build what’s required at Castle.
The fake city has no buildings except one – a converted military dorm Waymo employees sleep in when they’re too tired to make it back to San Francisco.
It’s hidden, and you need GPS coordinates to find it.
Castle is located north of the Merced metro area where the Castle Air Force Base used to be, 2.5 hours from the company’s headquarters. There, Waymo is testing several types of self-driving cars, including Chysler Pacificas minivans
Still, studies have shown that many consumers believe they can buy a fully self-driving car right now, such as a Tesla.
‘Tesla has always been clear that Autopilot doesn’t make the car impervious to all accidents,’ a Tesla spokesperson told Gizmodo.
‘Tesla goes to great lengths to provide clear instructions about what Autopilot is and is not, including by offering driver instructions when owners test drive and take delivery of their car, before drivers enable Autopilot, and every single time they use Autopilot, as well as through the Owner’s Manual and Release Notes for software updates.’
Experts say something has to be done with how self-driving cars are tested and how the companies behind it are being held accountable.
‘At the moment, testing in the U.S. is pretty reckless,’ Jack Stilgoe, a senior lecturer at University College London, told Gizmodo.
‘It is being left to companies to decide what risks are acceptable.’
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