There was a very unfortunate incident in Tempe, Arizona, on Sunday night where a driverless Uber car hit a pedestrian who later died in hospital.
This is believed to be the first, but definitely not the last, fatal incident involving autonomous vehicles and pedestrians. The Uber had a human operator inside who was not in control at the time the accident took place.
Washington Post has good piece about issues with these vehicles of which you can find an excerpt below (access the piece here):
Missy Cummings, a robotics expert at Duke University who has been critical of the swift rollout of driverless technology across the country, said the computer-vision systems for self-driving cars are “deeply flawed” and can be “incredibly brittle,” particularly in unfamiliar circumstances.
The victim was “walking outside of the crosswalk” and was crossing a road at about 10 p.m. when she was struck, the Tempe police said.
“Just because you map an area doesn’t mean your computer system is necessarily going to pick up a pedestrian, particularly one that wasn’t in a cross walk,” Cummings said.
Another industry-wide issue is to what extent autonomous vehicles can deal with unanticipated problems.
In the long run these driverless vehicles will make roads safer for all of us by removing unpredictable humans from behind the steering wheels. There will be very unfortunate hiccups along the way, however.
I just hope that this incident doesn’t set back the development of the technology.