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.”
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.