Self-drive issues

You recall that first Uber self-drive fatality – the boys at N.O. were discussing it. This does seem of sufficient interest to also run at OoL today.


But what’s clear is that the vehicle’s LIDAR and radar sensors-which don’t depend on ambient light and had an unobstructed view-should have spotted her in time to stop.



The link (provided in the comments) argues it well. And raises the point: was the LIDAR operating at the time of the accident ?


I was tempted to make the point that whether the sensors detected her or not, the question is whether the software paid any attention, and, of course, at what range she was detected.

She was walking on the oncoming vehicle side of her bike, with most of her clothing matt black. Lidar is not going to do much under those circumstances, and I have no idea of their radar resolution, if any. Should probably have detected the bike though?


I get the impression that Uber is testing without LIDAR, mainly in an attempt to cut costs. OTOH Waymo is using long-range LIDAR.


This is not a complex situation. This is the sort of thing that the LIDAR sees, and it sees very well at night. The Uber car, at 40mph, is getting into the upper range of speeds at which it is safe to drive non-freeway with just the LIDAR. What I called the valley of danger four years ago, and Uber knows it. 40mph is about as fast as you should go, but you can do it. (Even so, some cars like to go a bit slower approaching legal crosswalks, marked or not.) Using the LIDAR their perception system should have had a pretty good impression of her by 50m (2.7 seconds) and applied the brakes hard. The stopping distance is 25m or less with hard braking. (A more typical strategy would be to slow, and get a better appraisal, and then continue braking to as to stop a 2-3m before her, to avoid jarring any passengers.)

Uber needs to say why this did not happen. I have seen one report — just a rumour from somebody who spoke to an un-named insider, that the LIDAR was off in order to test operations using just camera and radar. While that might explain partly what happened, it is hard to excuse. Even if you want to do such tests — many teams are trying to build vehicles with no LIDAR — the LIDAR should remain on as a backup, triggering braking in exactly this sort of situation when the other systems have failed for some reason, or at least triggering a warning to the safety driver. It would be highly unwise to just turn it off.

In fact, I have to say that this sort of impact would have been handled by the fairly primitive ADAS “Forward Collision Warning” systems found on a large number of cars. Not the most basic radar-only ones that don’t detect horizontally moving objects, but any of the slightly more sophisticated ones on the market. The unit standard in the Volvo XC90 promises it will reduce velocity by 50km/h if a bicycle crosses your path. The built in systems that come with these cars are typically disabled in robocar operation.

One of the commenters filmed the road, which is nowhere near as dark as the original video makes it to be:

BTW, why was the car speeding ?


From the links –

Also, a viewpoint:

Further notes