Skip to main content

After Fatal Uber Incident, Nvidia Defers Autonomous Car Testing On Public Roads

Nvidia today announced that it would suspend its testing of autonomous cars on public roads until it knows what went wrong last week, when a self-driven Uber vehicle featuring Nvidia’s technology struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona.

The idea of self-driving cars is gaining a lot of traction these days, but the incident in Arizona may put the idea of autonomous cars on hold for a while. On May 18, a Volvo XC90 SUV equipped with Uber’s autonomous vehicle system struck and killed a pedestrian who was crossing the road.

Following the incident, Uber suspended its self-driving testing program in all cities, and earlier today the Governor of Arizona suspended Uber’s right to test automated vehicles in the state pending the NTSB and NHTSA’s investigations.

Uber isn’t the only company affected by this incident; the fatality puts heavy scrutiny on other autonomous car initiatives. Nvidia is currently leading the charge in developing technologies for self-driving vehicles, and it’s not taking the news of Uber’s fatal crash lightly.

Today at GTX 2018, Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang announced that the company halted all public self-driving vehicle testing worldwide until further notice, though it's still operating manually-driven vehicles with its AI technologies so it can continue to capture real-world data and work to make these systems safer. In the meantime, until Nvidia can sign off on the safety of its self-driving car technology, the company isn’t willing to put lives at risk.

Nvidia is now running virtualized experiments to test its AI systems. Last year, Nvidia revealed that you could use the Holodeck platform to safely train artificial intelligence systems in a controlled, simulated environment. Today, the company introduced the Nvidia Drive Constellation, which is a virtual environment of the same nature, but with the express purpose of testing autonomous vehicle technology.

The Nvidia Drive Constellation platform features the VR Autonomous Vehicle Simulator, which enables testing of autonomous driving systems in adverse conditions that could impair the sensors systems, such as fog, rain, and bright sunlight. With it, you can queue up any weather condition and run simulated tests without putting people in danger, making it the safest place to test Nvidia’s Drive AI system.

  • redgarl
    Here you go, Nvidia knows all about AI and Autonomous cars... let's buy some stock on vaporware.
    Reply
  • TJ Hooker
    I'd be curious to know how this accident would figure into an accidents per km driven metric for autonomous vehicles, and then compare it to the same metric for non-autonomous vehicles. I have a suspicion that the former would still be lower than the latter...

    Edit: km driven on public roads that is.
    Reply
  • USAFRet
    20833120 said:
    I'd be curious to know how this accident would figure into an accidents per km driven metric for autonomous vehicles, and then compare it to the same metric non autonomous vehicles. I have a suspicion that the former would still be much lower than the latter...

    For that, you'd have to slice off all the km driven in absolute perfect test conditions.
    Then compare.

    Eventually they'll be better than the overall human population.
    And eventually after that, "better" once you discount all the drunk drivers.
    Reply
  • bigpinkdragon286
    After reviewing the released footage, which doesn't show any graphic carnage and doesn't need to for one to get an idea how the accident happened, it's reasonable to suspect that a human driver would have run the woman over much the same as the autonomous vehicle did. The woman was nowhere near a legal road crossing, wearing black, walking on a dark, poorly lit portion of the roadway near a vehicle divergence point, coming out of a group of trees in the median, where you wouldn't normally expect the common jaywalker to be, and pushing a bicycle which may have played a role in confusing the vehicles sensors. Also, it isn't as if the woman who had a history of vagrancy couldn't see the car coming before she stepped into the street and started crossing slowly. Some onus of responsibility needs to be put on the person who walked in front of the oncoming vehicle. There is and always will be a limit to the ability of a computer in preventing human deaths.
    Reply
  • USAFRet
    20833583 said:
    After reviewing the released footage, which doesn't show any graphic carnage and doesn't need to for one to get an idea how the accident happened, it's reasonable to suspect that a human driver would have run the woman over much the same as the autonomous vehicle did. The woman was nowhere near a legal road crossing, wearing black, walking on a dark, poorly lit portion of the roadway near a vehicle divergence point, coming out of a group of trees in the median, where you wouldn't normally expect the common jaywalker to be, and pushing a bicycle which may have played a role in confusing the vehicles sensors. Also, it isn't as if the woman who had a history of vagrancy couldn't see the car coming before she stepped into the street and started crossing slowly. Some onus of responsibility needs to be put on the person who walked in front of the oncoming vehicle. There is and always will be a limit to the ability of a computer in preventing human deaths.

    Well, they're supposed to be "better" than human.

    That could easily have been a kid chasing a ball.

    And...https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-03-20/tempe-police-say-no-fault-uber-fatal-crash
    "The car, which was traveling at 38 mph in a 35 mph"
    Speeding?


    (and the womans possible but not verified "history of vagrancy" has nothing to do with this)
    Reply
  • someone-crazy
    The sad part is uber disabled the standard collision avoidance system, a stupid move so they could test the unproven system instead of having multiple failsafes in place. https://www.google.com/amp/nationalpost.com/news/world/uber-disabled-self-driving-volvos-standard-collision-avoidance-system-before-car-struck-killed-woman/amp
    Reply
  • bigpinkdragon286
    20833599 said:
    Well, they're supposed to be "better" than human.

    That could easily have been a kid chasing a ball.
    I agree, these computer controlled vehicles are supposed to better than humans, but they are still subject to the realities of physics and other impossible to predict realities. A 100% perfect record is an impossibility. A significant reduction in human induced errors, however, is both a very good and seemingly achievable goal. I suspect there is good correlation between the statistics for motor vehicle safety and aircraft safety (which there are plenty of good numbers for), and if we take as an example, Boeing's statistics (again, plenty of studies seem to support this), you would see that in about 80% of aircraft incidents, the fault lies with the human in part or in full, not the aircraft, with the other 20% being failure of the aircraft or outside influences such as weather. I have a suspicion that the numbers for autonomous vehicle safety vs human controlled vehicle is going to swing widely in favor of the more automated systems, but first they have to get the measures to be apples to apples, as you said, so we're not giving unfair advantage to the level 3, 4, and 5 vehicles operating on test tracks or perfect weather conditions. My money is still on the autonomous vehicles, at least after they've been through the proper development work.

    If a child chasing a ball runs out from behind sensor obscuring cover, no existing system can currently resolve the situation in a favorable manner for all involved. In the future, that may change. In the case of your example, the onus is on the parent or guardian letting the child run into the street in the first place, not the computer for failing to stop a moving vehicle in less time or with less information than is required. It's a tragedy whenever something like this happens, but it doesn't change the fact that a lapse of human judgement or control was involved in the incident. Maybe we should blame Sesame Street for not teaching children to look both ways before crossing the street, or perhaps the responsible adult was too busy texting to watch the child?

    Hopefully the cause of the failure of the vehicle in this case to identify the woman and take correct avoidance measures can be found and a permanent solution enacted.

    20833599 said:
    And...https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-03-20/tempe-police-say-no-fault-uber-fatal-crash
    "The car, which was traveling at 38 mph in a 35 mph"
    Speeding?
    You can be sure that somebody would be issued a citation by the police department, and most articles would likely point this out, if the car was found to be speeding. There has been a case of a Google car being pulled over without a citation being issued for impeding traffic by driving at 24 MPH in a 35 MPH zone. However, Google has admitted that their cars are designed to exceed the speed limit when it's safer to do so, due to traffic conditions. Hard to say what Uber's cars are allowed to do in regards breaking speed limits without Uber commenting on that. Ultimately though, the news article you linked to, which I did read, claims a speed limit for the road which I assert it is factually incorrect, and can even be verified through Google maps street view. I also raise you a couple more articles, with the relevant paragraphs in quotes:

    From the New York Times article, "How a Self-Driving Uber Killed a Pedestrian in Arizona"
    The vehicle was going about 40 miles an hour on a street with a 45-mile-an-hour speed limit when it struck Ms. Herzberg, 49, who was walking her bicycle across the street, according to the Tempe police.
    From the Reuters article, "Homeless Arizona woman killed by Uber self-driving SUV was 'like everyone's aunt'"
    TEMPE, Ariz. (Reuters) - The Arizona pedestrian killed by an Uber self-driving vehicle was a homeless woman close to getting off the streets, her friends said, describing her as a fighter who took care of those around her.
    20833599 said:
    (and the womans possible but not verified "history of vagrancy" has nothing to do with this)
    I think we could argue, if you really wanted to, of the relevancy of both a person's financial status and psychological well-being, in how individuals interact with the places in which they find themselves. It doesn't tend to be the well dressed and well off I see breaking laws so they can exercise what for most appearances must be the worst possible decisions about where and how to cross the road.
    Reply
  • jpe1701
    20833827 said:
    20833599 said:
    Well, they're supposed to be "better" than human.

    That could easily have been a kid chasing a ball.
    I agree, these computer controlled vehicles are supposed to better than humans, but they are still subject to the realities of physics and other impossible to predict realities. A 100% perfect record is an impossibility. A significant reduction in human induced errors, however, is both a very good and seemingly achievable goal. I suspect there is good correlation between the statistics for motor vehicle safety and aircraft safety (which there are plenty of good numbers for), and if we take as an example, Boeing's statistics (again, plenty of studies seem to support this), you would see that in about 80% of aircraft incidents, the fault lies with the human in part or in full, not the aircraft, with the other 20% being failure of the aircraft or outside influences such as weather. I have a suspicion that the numbers for autonomous vehicle safety vs human controlled vehicle is going to swing widely in favor of the more automated systems, but first they have to get the measures to be apples to apples, as you said, so we're not giving unfair advantage to the level 3, 4, and 5 vehicles operating on test tracks or perfect weather conditions. My money is still on the autonomous vehicles, at least after they've been through the proper development work.

    If a child chasing a ball runs out from behind sensor obscuring cover, no existing system can currently resolve the situation in a favorable manner for all involved. In the future, that may change. In the case of your example, the onus is on the parent or guardian letting the child run into the street in the first place, not the computer for failing to stop a moving vehicle in less time or with less information than is required. It's a tragedy whenever something like this happens, but it doesn't change the fact that a lapse of human judgement or control was involved in the incident. Maybe we should blame Sesame Street for not teaching children to look both ways before crossing the street, or perhaps the responsible adult was too busy texting to watch the child?

    Hopefully the cause of the failure of the vehicle in this case to identify the woman and take correct avoidance measures can be found and a permanent solution enacted.

    20833599 said:
    And...https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-03-20/tempe-police-say-no-fault-uber-fatal-crash
    "The car, which was traveling at 38 mph in a 35 mph"
    Speeding?
    You can be sure that somebody would be issued a citation by the police department, and most articles would likely point this out, if the car was found to be speeding. There has been a case of a Google car being pulled over without a citation being issued for impeding traffic by driving at 24 MPH in a 35 MPH zone. However, Google has admitted that their cars are designed to exceed the speed limit when it's safer to do so, due to traffic conditions. Hard to say what Uber's cars are allowed to do in regards breaking speed limits without Uber commenting on that. Ultimately though, the news article you linked to, which I did read, claims a speed limit for the road which I assert it is factually incorrect, and can even be verified through Google maps street view. I also raise you a couple more articles, with the relevant paragraphs in quotes:

    From the New York Times article, "How a Self-Driving Uber Killed a Pedestrian in Arizona"
    The vehicle was going about 40 miles an hour on a street with a 45-mile-an-hour speed limit when it struck Ms. Herzberg, 49, who was walking her bicycle across the street, according to the Tempe police.
    From the Reuters article, "Homeless Arizona woman killed by Uber self-driving SUV was 'like everyone's aunt'"
    TEMPE, Ariz. (Reuters) - The Arizona pedestrian killed by an Uber self-driving vehicle was a homeless woman close to getting off the streets, her friends said, describing her as a fighter who took care of those around her.
    20833599 said:
    (and the womans possible but not verified "history of vagrancy" has nothing to do with this)
    I think we could argue, if you really wanted to, of the relevancy of both a person's financial status and psychological well-being, in how individuals interact with the places in which they find themselves. It doesn't tend to be the well dressed and well off I see breaking laws so they can exercise what for most appearances must be the worst possible decisions about where and how to cross the road.

    You had me until you started arguing that Her vagrancy had anything to do with it. Do you know the area? How do you know the status of her "psychological well-being"? And who do you see doing crimes? You think people that dress well don't commit crimes or have mental illness? Maybe they change clothes for you.
    Reply
  • bigpinkdragon286
    20833913 said:
    You had me until you started arguing that Her vagrancy had anything to do with it. Do you know the area? How do you know the status of her "psychological well-being"? And who do you see doing crimes? You think people that dress well don't commit crimes or have mental illness? Maybe they change clothes for you.
    If the woman wasn't a vagrant, or homeless, she probably wouldn't have been crossing the street the way she was, at the time of day she did, so you could make the case that being homeless had everything to do with her death. She probably would be alive today had she not been homeless, so how dare you not think her homelessness had a factor to play in her death? Don't blame my dissatisfaction for her state in life to be some sort of disapproval or disdain for her as a person. You have limited means here to glean just how much compassion I have for people.

    You question my knowledge of the area? I question yours as well. I didn't take a stance on her mental well-being, but I do think it's significant and called it into question. Does the average person cross the street in front of a moving automobile, in the dark, without concern for their own safety? I'm not going to discount her mental health, no matter what it was, just because she may be without a consistent place of residence. People in dire situations often make decisions that they may not otherwise, decisions which are often times not the best for anybody involved.

    The moment she stepped into the road outside of a crosswalk, she broke the law. The laws covering jaywalking are there for the benefit of both the motorist and the pedestrian. Well dressed or not, she stepped in front of a moving vehicle, whether aware of that fact or not, and paid a sad, fatal consequence.

    This is not an argument for or against the dignity or humanity of her person, that just happened to be in the situation she was in. The issue of homelessness is a discussion that is outside of the bounds of this article. But, it does intersect when you look at how homeless tend to behave in contrast to how people who aren't as concerned with food or shelter tend to behave.

    I live in a suburb of an area with a large vagrant population. Arguing that they are in any way model citizens or subject to special consideration above the laws that are in place to protect citizens is not going to give you any traction with me, but it's good to keep the conversation going.

    If we are going to progress beyond letting humans make errors while driving, maybe there is progress we can make in regards pedestrians making errors as well? Do we fault trains when they run over people that are walking on the tracks? Do people really think that no matter what a pedestrian does does on a road, they should be excused and the motorist at fault?
    Reply
  • Ninjawithagun
    20833583 said:
    After reviewing the released footage, which doesn't show any graphic carnage and doesn't need to for one to get an idea how the accident happened, it's reasonable to suspect that a human driver would have run the woman over much the same as the autonomous vehicle did. The woman was nowhere near a legal road crossing, wearing black, walking on a dark, poorly lit portion of the roadway near a vehicle divergence point, coming out of a group of trees in the median, where you wouldn't normally expect the common jaywalker to be, and pushing a bicycle which may have played a role in confusing the vehicles sensors. Also, it isn't as if the woman who had a history of vagrancy couldn't see the car coming before she stepped into the street and started crossing slowly. Some onus of responsibility needs to be put on the person who walked in front of the oncoming vehicle. There is and always will be a limit to the ability of a computer in preventing human deaths.

    You are absolutely correct on all points - well said! I have been discussing this very incident with coworkers and we all agree that Uber is not at fault here. Anybody would have hit this lady in almost the same way. We may have gotten lucky and hit the brakes or swerved at the last second. But in the end, I don't think it was unavoidable. If you watch the video, it's fairly conclusive that the pedestrian was not visible until the last second prior to being hit. It's a sad thing that someone died, but blame can't be blind either. If I were the judge, I would rule on the side of Uber due to so many contributing factors on behalf of the pedestrian.

    Reply