The Driverless Commute, presented by Dentons: The preliminary report from the NTSB finds the autonomous Uber that fatally struck a pedestrian suffered a software collapse; and public confidence is beginning to sour on autonomous vehicles

Welcome again to The Driverless Commute, presented by the global law firm Dentons, a weekly digest clocking the most important technical, legal and regulatory developments shaping the path to autonomy.

1. The feds’ findings

The autonomous Uber that fatally struck a pedestrian two months ago during a dusky run in Tempe, AZ, suffered a software collapse as its systems failed to quickly and properly identify obstructions in its path, according to a preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board.

More from NPR:

“Investigators with the federal agency determined that the car’s detection systems including radar and laser instruments, observed a woman walking her bicycle across the road roughly six seconds before impact—likely enough time, in other words, for a vehicle driving 43 mph to brake and avoid fatally injuring the woman.

“But it did not immediately identify the woman as a human pedestrian. Instead, the agency said, ‘as the vehicle and pedestrian paths converged, the self-driving system software classified the pedestrian as an unknown object, as a vehicle, and then as a vehicle with varying expectations of future travel path.’

“It was not until 1.3 seconds before impact that the car’s self-driving system ‘determined that an emergency braking maneuver was needed to mitigate a collision,’ NTSB explained.”

2. Auguring

Incidents like Tempe have exposed the risk of testing and deploying still-experimental technology—balancing the proposition of saving millions of lives tomorrow with jeopardizing a few today—to an already skeptical public.

But perception of true automotive autonomy has been harmed most by the semi-autonomous driver-assistance programs currently swarming the market, like the spate of recent crashes by vehicles that include advanced driver assistance programs but whose systems weren’t engaged.

And now public confidence has begun to sour. In the space of five months (during which there were a number of crashes involving autonomous vehicles whose ADS were engaged and those that were actually being operated by a human driver), the number of respondents who told AAA they are “too afraid” to ride in an autonomous vehicle surged by 10 points, up to 73 percent.

3. Reputational protection

Our best-in-industry intelligence service, the Console, marries machine learning algorithms with human analysis to create comprehensive, real-time advisories on everything autonomy.

It monitors, digests, and packages everything of consequence to your business: television and radio chatter, social media scoops, legislative and regulatory activity, legal filings, acquisitions, and white papers.

A service of Dentons’ 3D Global Affairs, which yokes traditional legal capabilities with government affairs, corporate competitive analysis, and strategic communications, the Console mines the public record to populate an easy-to-navigate platform.

Click here to speak with our experts and attorneys across the world to learn more about any of the items contained in this newsletter.

Subscribe and stay updated
Receive our latest blog posts by email.
Eric Tanenblatt

About Eric Tanenblatt

Eric Tanenblatt is the Global Chair of Public Policy and Regulation of Dentons, the world's largest law firm. He also leads the firm's US Public Policy Practice, leveraging his three decades of experience at the very highest levels of the federal and state governments.

Full bio

James Richardson

About James Richardson

James Richardson is a strategic communications counselor with 15 years’ experience advising presidential candidates, Global Fortune 500 executives, national nonprofits, and sovereign governments on strategic communications and reputation management. He helps lead Dentons’ 3D Global Affairs practice.

Full bio