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Thread: Autonomous Vehicles

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    Default Autonomous Vehicles

    We've talked about self driving cars a bit here and there. Lets do it some more.

    The recent review from the NTSB about the incident where a self driving Uber hit and killed a pedestrian/bicyclist (she was pushing a bike) has some interesting revelations (to me, anyhow).

    NTSB: Uber Self-Driving Car Had Disabled Emergency Brake System Before Fatal Crash : The Two-Way : NPR

    To review:
    A Volvo fitted with Uber's self driving system hit and killed a woman. She was walking across the road pushing a bicycle. It was after dark. The "driver" wasn't looking at the road until just before impact.

    I'm not trying to sound harsh or insensitive, but the woman who was hit and killed is primarily the one to blame here. She was walking across a four lane road in the dark and wasn't looking out for traffic. It's sad she's dead, but, had she been watching for traffic, she'd still be alive. It's not like the car randomly swerved and jumped the curb and hit her - she walked in front of it. That said, the car should have seen her and acted accordingly - I mean if I'm driving down the road and someone is walking across the road, and I see them, I try not to hit them, even if they shouldn't be walking out in front of me. Happens all the time actually, and so far I've yet to mow anyone down.

    Now, lets discuss the car. What's surprising to me is how the Uber system works. It recognized something was in the road ~6secs before it hit her. It registered a bicycle a little over 1 second before it hit her.

    The two big "WTFs" in my mind:
    1. The car did not brake or use any evasive maneuvering. The Volvo has factory installed automatic emergency braking that will act on it's own, but the Uber system turns it off "to prevent erratic behavior". The system relies on the "driver" to intervene with braking and/or steering.
    2. The Uber system does not give any alerts to the driver that it has seen something in the road.


    In other words, the car 'thought' "oh look there's a person directly in my path of travel" and then did nothing.

    It seems to me that #1 (auto braking is turned off) is done because the system isn't good enough to be trusted. And with that in mind, I can't for the life of me understand why #2 would be true. Why wouldn't it alert the driver?

    With self driving cars, once people get used to them and start trusting them they will not be paying attention to the road. Therefore, you cannot count on them to do emergency braking or maneuvering. That's exactly what happened here, the "driver" wasn't looking at the road for quite some time. And if these systems do require 100% attention from the driver, then what's the point at all? Because they'll certainly pay even less attention than they do now with a self driving car vs one they have to drive themselves.

    Further, I wonder what the process was like that approved the use of these things. Did the NTSB or Arizona DOT know that the system would turn off automatic emergency braking, and not alert the driver to potential dangers?
    Last edited by dgaddis; 05-25-2018 at 10:21 AM.
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    Default Re: Autonomous Vehicles

    I read an article a few days ago similar to the one you referenced. I was surprised to read that the system(s) had been disabled on the car. When the actual accident occurred, I was stunned that it happened the way it did. These automated systems were supposed to save lives and in this case, it didn’t. Now we find out stuff was disabled. I wonder if the driver knew.

    I’m not sure what to believe anymore related to the news reports on these cars: testing, miles driven with no accidents, etc. Are they working or not? I know there are teething pains with any new system of this magnitude, but I wonder what true reliability of this stuff is.

    Personally, I think automated cars and the push for them is pure snake oil. It isn’t going to work. It can’t work just by putting gadgets in a car. There will have to be infrastructure added to the road system itself and right now in my area, merely filing craters/potholes seems to be a chore. If the system doesn’t work everywhere, it shouldn’t be used anywhere.

    I could go on. I’m not normally a betting person, but I would wager the farm that in 10 years, 20 years, whatever, automated cars will not have saved any more lives than proper driver training. IF you could even quantify either.
     

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    Default Re: Autonomous Vehicles

    Quote Originally Posted by becomingblue View Post
    I would wager the farm that in 10 years, 20 years, whatever, automated cars will not have saved any more lives than proper driver training. IF you could even quantify either.
    with the increasing amount of distracted driving I would take that bet.
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    Default Re: Autonomous Vehicles

    Quote Originally Posted by becomingblue View Post
    I read an article a few days ago similar to the one you referenced. I was surprised to read that the system(s) had been disabled on the car. When the actual accident occurred, I was stunned that it happened the way it did. These automated systems were supposed to save lives and in this case, it didn’t. Now we find out stuff was disabled. I wonder if the driver knew.

    I’m not sure what to believe anymore related to the news reports on these cars: testing, miles driven with no accidents, etc. Are they working or not? I know there are teething pains with any new system of this magnitude, but I wonder what true reliability of this stuff is.

    Personally, I think automated cars and the push for them is pure snake oil. It isn’t going to work. It can’t work just by putting gadgets in a car. There will have to be infrastructure added to the road system itself and right now in my area, merely filing craters/potholes seems to be a chore. If the system doesn’t work everywhere, it shouldn’t be used anywhere.

    I could go on. I’m not normally a betting person, but I would wager the farm that in 10 years, 20 years, whatever, automated cars will not have saved any more lives than proper driver training. IF you could even quantify either.
    The only way it's going to save lives is what I see as the eventual end-game of autonomous vehicles -- all other users will be banned from the public roadways, including motorcyclists, pedestrians and cyclists.
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    Default Re: Autonomous Vehicles

    Agreed. But, when they pry my cold dead hands from the handlebars, as they say.
     

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    Default Re: Autonomous Vehicles

    Saw something similar to this concept being hauled on a flatbed in DC today >>


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    Default Re: Autonomous Vehicles

    I'm not trying to sound harsh or insensitive, but the woman who was hit and killed is primarily the one to blame here. She was walking across a four lane road in the dark and wasn't looking out for traffic. It's sad she's dead, but, had she been watching for traffic, she'd still be alive. It's not like the car randomly swerved and jumped the curb and hit her - she walked in front of it.
    I don't agree that she is primarily to blame. The driver of the car wasn't paying attention to where the car was going. The car was an experimental vehicle. Wouldn't paying attention to where an experimental vehicle was going be the primary job of the driver? It is an experimental vehicle, not an actual finished done ready for prime time real world use car. I know that area - it isn't ever totally dark there. It is extremely confusing in terms of all the various sidewalks, some of them on the median, bike paths, bike lanes, turning lanes, impending traffic light, etc. Even though signs say don't cross over to the median from the sidewalk, what if you are riding in the bike lane southbound and need to get over to the northbound bike lane? They look perfect for that. And with all the ASU students in that area with apartments and nearby school buildings, you have to pay attention when driving around there. The lack of reflectors correctly positioned on the bike and the presence of drugs in the system of the woman killed are not conditions that make her primarily to blame, especially when there is no toxicology of the driver of the autonomous vehicle (evidently.) And wearing dark clothing also does not mean she is to blame for getting hit. At most, she showed bad judgment assuming that oncoming cars were either going to allow her to cross the street there or that she had enough time to make it across the street at that point. But still she isn't to blame for her death. Bad judgment has nothing to do with blame. Bad judgment could however be used to describe what is an unfortunate accident. Bad judgment which the driver of the autonomous car also showed by forgetting that even though she was sitting in an autonomous car, she was still the driver of that car, not a bystander in the driver's seat. Two people + two cases of bad judgment = one death.

    The one to blame are the officials who allowed this car on the road to use unsuspecting people as guinea pigs with no warning that the car approaching them is being operated by a computer program. That car should have been covered with flashing lights and emitting a loud alarm sound to alert people to the possibility that this car might see them and not stop and that no one in the car would stop it.

    Screen Shot 2018-05-25 at 8.40.42 PM.jpg
    Last edited by j44ke; 05-25-2018 at 09:23 PM.
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    Default Re: Autonomous Vehicles

    I'm encouraged by autonomous vehicles for certain circumstances. Many cities have digital speed limit signs on highways that are subject to heavy traffic. Speeds are calculated based on the most efficient movement of traffic and if cars actually followed those speeds, traffic would move faster. Right now, there are many drivers that are smooth and steady in traffic while there are others that surge and stop. Autonomous cars could be controlled by traffic computers to maintain a steady flow, even if it's 35mph, it's better than stop and go.
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    Default Re: Autonomous Vehicles

    The blame here is Uber's. They consistently display a cavalier attitude towards regulations. They aggressively pushed to get these cars out. They aggressively went from 2 drivers to 1 driver monitoring the car in a short order. This company needs to be fined heavily. They are displaying the classic better ask for forgiveness then permission. If the punishment is not heavy, then the cavalier bet vs regulations was the right one. It's that simple.

    (Has anyone seen the write up on what the driver was looking at? Was it a display screen for the car show stats that he needed to check? If so, going to one driver was not well thought out since it required eyes off road)
     

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    Default Re: Autonomous Vehicles

    Quote Originally Posted by j44ke View Post
    I don't agree that she is primarily to blame...
    Just to be clear, I wasn't saying she deserved it, or trying to lessen the value of her life. Just because she made bad choices doesn't mean she should have been killed for it. I didn't mention the toxicology report because whatever it had said, I still feel like she shouldn't have been in the road. Or at the very least she shouldn't have assumed traffic would slow to let her across. I say she's 'primarily' to blame because she was acting outside of the expected norms, and in the video it didn't look like she ever even looked to see if traffic was coming.

    But you're right, it was the combination of several mistakes. The driver, and Uber, and the officials that allowed the car on the roads are certainly partially to blame for her death too.

    If she didn't walk in front of the car, she wouldn't have been hit.
    If the car had braked, maybe it wouldn't have hit her.
    Had the driver been paying attention to the road, maybe she wouldn't have been hit.
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    Default Re: Autonomous Vehicles

    I'm also saying that the expected norms in that area are that cars will slow and yield to pedestrians even outside of crosswalks, because there are so many of pedestrians (admittedly many of them distracted) in that area associated with the presence of a major university. When I first arrived at ASU, I was astonished by how willing car drivers were to stop for pedestrians. It was outside of my expectations as normal behavior. My normative experience (Richmond, VA) was that you often couldn't cross the street without being an another car. So regardless of the pedestrian's errors and those of the driver's, the expectation of the pedestrian could have easily been that the car driver would yield to her crossing the road. However, because there was no indication that this was a "special" kind of car, any pedestrian crossing the road would not have known that whatever expectations might have been reasonable in that area were not a part of the car's autonomous behavior.

    I also think had the car hit and killed an ASU student, the accident would have been a much bigger problem for the car owner and the city.
    Last edited by j44ke; 05-28-2018 at 09:51 AM.
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    Default Re: Autonomous Vehicles

    Quote Originally Posted by j44ke View Post
    I also think had the car hit and killed an ASU student, the accident would have been a much bigger problem for the car owner and the city.
    Agree 100%. Uber got lucky that it was "just a homeless person". Most folks have already forgotten about the whole thing.
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