A woman in Tempe, Ariz., has died after being hit by a self-driving car operated by Uber, in what appears to be the first known death of a pedestrian struck by an autonomous vehicle on a public road.
The Uber vehicle was in autonomous mode with a human safety driver at the wheel when it struck the woman, who was crossing the street outside of a crosswalk, the Tempe police said in a statement. The episode happened on Sunday around 10 p.m. The woman was not publicly identified.
This notion that having a "safety driver" in the passenger seat will allow a distracted human to take over at the last minute is completely insane. You think driving-while-texting is dangerous? This is so much worse. When people aren't engaged in the task of driving, their minds wander. They cannot re-engage fast enough. This is obvious on its face, we don't need studies to prove it. Oh, but we have them anyway.
Uber said it had suspended testing of its self-driving cars in Tempe, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto.
"Our hearts go out to the victim's family. We are fully cooperating with local authorities in their investigation of this incident," an Uber spokeswoman, Sarah Abboud, said in a statement.
"Thoughts and prayers, but not one dime."
Autonomous cars are expected to ultimately be safer than human drivers, because they don't get distracted and always observe traffic laws.
Nice, weasely use of the passive voice there, New York Times. Expected by whom? Certainly not by anyone with any expertise in computer science. Or AI. Or anyone who has ever used a computer. Or a cell phone. Or a printer. Or driven a car.
However, researchers working on the technology have struggled with how to teach the autonomous systems to adjust for unpredictable human driving or behavior.
"No 9000 computer has ever made a mistake or distorted information. We are all, by any practical definition of the words, foolproof and incapable of error."
"It can only be attributable to human error."
Note that the article's headline referred to the woman killed by the robot as a "pedestrian" instead of a person. "Pedestrian" is a propaganda term invented by the auto industry to re-frame the debate: to get you to preemptively agree that roads, and by extension cities, are for cars, and any non-car-based use is "other", is some kind of special-case interloper. See The Invention of Jaywalking.
Semantics aside, I have one question that I think is pretty important here, and that is, who is getting charged with vehicular homicide? Even if they are ultimately ruled to be not at fault, what name goes on the court docket? Is it:
Uber employee"non-employee independent contractor" in the passenger seat?
- Their shift lead?
- Travis Kalanick?
- The author(s) of the (proprietary, un-auditable) software?
- The "corporate person" known as Uber?
Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.