Uber is under fire this week after reports surfaced that the self-driving SUV involved in a fatal accident had its standard safety sensors switched off.
Two weeks ago, 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg was walking her bike across a dark road when she was struck and killed by a Volvo XC90 SUV that was testing Uber’s autonomous driving technology.
The investigation into the exact details of the accident is still ongoing, but several facts are already known, such as the driver did not have their hands near the wheel of the car, and that the SUV was traveling a few miles per hour slower than the posted speed limit.
A fact that recently came to light, according to Bloomberg, is that the standard driver-assistance suite that comes on the Volvo XC90 SUV was turned off. This included features such as lane-keeping assistance, blind spot monitoring, as well as collision avoidance and emergency braking.
The likelihood is that Uber disabled Volvo’s standard safety features to better test their own autonomous driving technology, but now the companies that supply Volvo with those safety features are speaking up to distance themselves from the tragedy.
“We don’t want people to be confused or think it was a failure of the technology that we supply for Volvo, because that’s not the case,” Zach Peterson, a spokesman for Aptiv Plc. Aptiv provides Volvo with the technology used for their driver assistance suites, such as cameras, lidar, and radar.
However, Aptiv gets their chips and sensors from another company called Mobileye, which is a subsidiary of Intel Corp. Mobileye was also quick to issue a statement that seemed to ensure no blame falls on the chipmaker.
Using video footage provided by police, Mobileye actually analyzed how their software would have performed had it been properly functioning and found that it would have detected Herzberg a full second before the crash.
“The video released by the police seems to demonstrate that even the most basic building block of an autonomous vehicle system, the ability to detect and classify objects, is a challenging task,” said Mobileye Chief Executive Officer Amnon Shashua on Intel’s website. “It is this same technology that is required, before tackling even tougher challenges, as a foundational element of fully autonomous vehicles of the future.”
Although Mobileye said they could have detected Herzberg earlier than Uber’s system did, they declined to say if that would have been early enough to prevent the accident.