Video: The driver of the autonomous Uber was distracted before fatal crash

The Tempe, Arizona police department have released a video showing the moments before the fatal crash that involved Uber’s self-driving car. The video includes the view of the street from the Uber and a view of minder behind the wheel of the autonomous Uber.

Warning: This video is disturbing.

The video shows the victim crossing a dark street when an Uber self-driving Volvo XC90 strikes her at 40 mph. It also shows the person who is supposed to be babysitting the autonomous vehicle looking down moments before the crash. It’s unclear what is distracting the minder. It’s also unclear why Uber’s systems did not detect and react to the victim who was clearly moving across its range of sensors at walking speeds.

Uber provided the following statement regarding the incident to TechCrunch:

Our hearts go out to the victim’s family. We are fully cooperating with local authorities in their investigation of this incident.

Since the crash on March 19, Uber has pulled all its vehicles from the roads operating in Pittsburgh, Tempe, San Francisco and Toronto. This is the first time an autonomous vehicle operating in self-driving mode has resulted in a human death. In a statement to TechCrunch, the NHTSA said it has sent over its “Special Crash Investigation” team to Tempe. This is “consistent with NHTSA’s vigilant oversight and authority over the safety of all motor vehicles and equipment, including automated technologies,” a spokesperson for the agency told TechCrunch.

“NHTSA is also in contact with Uber, Volvo, Federal, State and local authorities regarding the incident,” the spokesperson said. “The agency will review the information and proceed as warranted.”

Toyota also paused its self-driving testing in the US following the accident.

This tragic accident is the sort of situation self-driving vehicles are supposed to address. After all, these systems are supposed to be able to see through the dark and cannot get distracted by Twitter.

Lyft is building a self-driving platform with auto supplier Magna

Lyft is partnering with Magna, one of the largest tier-one automotive industry suppliers in the world, on autonomous vehicle technology. Lyft CEO and co-founder Logan Green explained that this will help them get their self-driving tech into various automaker vehicles around the world. Lyft will be working directly with Magna on “co-developing” an autonomous driving system, with collaborative teams from both companies working on the project.

Magna is also investing $200 million in Lyft in exchange for an equity stake. The goal is to build not only autonomy into production vehicles, but also to put direct access to Lyft’s hailing platform into future autonomous vehicles using the platform. Lyft will lead the development effort of the autonomous driving platform from the Level 5 autonomous driving engineering center in Palo Alto, and Magna will take point on manufacturing, working on site at Lyft’s facility in collaboration with the ride-hailing company’s own engineers.

Green explained that the company’s goal has been to “improve how transportation works” from the very beginning, citing a childhood growing up in traffic, trying to figure out how to avoid traffic, as a motivating factor. He also noted that it’s “wildly expensive” for individuals to own and operate their vehicles.

All ridesharing makes up just 0.5 percent of all miles traveled, and Lyft’s goal is to move that to more than 80 percent, Green said. He cited examples like Netflix as showing what he wants to achieve in the transportation industry, in terms of moving from ownership to subscriptions.

In terms of helping Lyft to scale its vision, teaming up with Magna could be a big help: The supplier knows the ins and outs of putting certified, mass-produced key components and systems into vehicles that make their way to public roads and consumers from the world’s leading automakers.

Lyft and Magna are not sharing any info with regards to a timeline for when we might see the results of this partnership put into practice, in testing or in production, but Magna noted in a press release detailing the news that it should be “market-ready over the next few years” if all goes to plan. Initially, according to Green, the collaboration will aim to deploy SAE Level 4 autonomous driving tech first, but ultimately the aim is to produce the best Level 5 system available. The product of the collaboration will be “joint intellectual property,” per Lyft Chief Strategy Officer Raj Kapoor, who also explained that both companies will leverage data resulting from testing and use of the AV platform.

As for Lyft’s own efforts with developing autonomous vehicle systems thus far, the company said during a press event about the news that it’s already testing vehicles at the GoMentum autonomous vehicles proving ground in California, just five months after making its autonomous engineering efforts official.

AI will create new jobs but skills must shift, say tech giants

 AI will create more jobs than it destroys was the not-so-subtle rebuttal from tech giants to growing concern over the impact of automation technologies on employment. Execs from Google, IBM and Salesforce were questioned about the wider societal implications of their technologies during a panel session here at Mobile World Congress.  Read More

Aurora will power Byton EV’s autonomous driving features

 Aurora, the self-driving startup founded by Google self-driving car project alum Chris Urmson, along with Tesla Autopilot developer Sterling Anderson, CMU robotics expert and Uber vet Drew Bagnell, and a team of industry experts, will be making the autonomous smarts for Byton’s forthcoming electric vehicle. Byton, a startup that had a splashy debut at CES earlier this year.… Read More