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Uber came down easily


Long ago, when you passed your driving test and got your driving license, someone gave a lecture on responsibility. Maybe they were your parents, driving instructor or DMV tester. You were responsible for the car and therefore it was your duty not to break it down.

You probably haven't received this lecture for some time, but it's still true. Someone always has to be responsible for every moving vehicle. This is the basic principle driving, flying planes, operating forklifts, cycling and even walking. If you run into someone else, you're responsible.

Is much impersonation and hawing on how autonomous vehicles can complicate the issue of responsibility. They will not. At least they shouldn't. Some like to pretend to present a much more complex matrix of responsibility about who is responsible when something goes wrong and refer to insignificant philosophical thought experiments in the process that everything seems to be a different problem than it is. But regardless of whether the vehicle driver is a person or a computer, someone is still responsible.

It is not known, however, that since Tuesday's hearing of the National Transport Security Council on the death of Elaine Herzberg, a woman had struck and killed her with an Uber self-propelled test vehicle in March 2018. Results, everyone is responsible.

The NTSB identified "security problems" with "inadequate Uber security culture" which It has be well documented, as just one of many reasons. But this also caused Uber's safety driver to crash for inattention – a separate issue from how self-propelled cars were programmed and how management designed the testing process to prioritize "metrics" such as miles driven to impress a new boss against safety – and in government agencies , such as the Arizona Department of Transportation and the National Road Safety Administration, for not implementing stricter regulations or mandatory safety reports.

Strangely enough, the NTSB even discovered that Herzberg herself was partly responsible because she didn't cross the street at a pedestrian crossing – not to mention the fact that the bike path she was riding on had spat it out in the middle of the block – and having drugs in her system on time of disaster, which in the most charitable interpretation means that Herzberg was not alert enough to leave the Uber SUV before the collision.

Here is the whole NTSB statement "Probable cause":

The National Transport Safety Council determined that the likely cause of the Tempe, Arizona accident was that the vehicle operator was unable to monitor the driving environment and the automated driving system because it was visually dispersed while traveling on his cell phone. The causes of the disaster were: (1) inadequate safety risk assessment procedures of the Uber Advanced Technologies Group, (2) ineffective supervision of vehicle operators, and (3) lack of adequate mechanisms to solve problems with operator automation – all this is a consequence of its inadequate safety culture. Other factors contributing to the accident were (1) impaired pedestrian crossing through N. Mill Avenue outside pedestrian crossing and (2) insufficient oversight of the Arizona Department of Transportation over automatic vehicle testing

In summary, NTSB came to the conclusion that the fault lies primarily with the safety driver, a contractor employed by Uber to oversee the driving software. The inappropriate safety culture of Uber has been reduced to "contributing" to the accident. Herzberg's behavior and lack of oversight by the Arizona Department of Transportation as part of the AV tasting are also checked for names.

This attitude, which can be blamed, was consistent with the overall tone of the hearing, with respect and sometimes even praise for Uber. This may sound strange considering the NTSB investigation stating that the company's employees were the cause of the failure. But on many occasions, NTSB members not only forgave Uber by default, but praised the company for its actions after the disaster, as if the company was completely separate from the next one before Hertzberg's death. They were terribly good sport in this matter.

The concluding remarks of the NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt characterized his overall approach. "Uber ATG has really benefited from the lessons of this event, this tragic event," Sumwalt said. "Uber really took these lessons and we want to encourage them to continue this journey, and we want others to learn from it too."

You could almost hear the hidden sentiment, the one he wanted to say so much we all make mistakes.

Meanwhile, the NTSB never very precisely defined what Uber's journey was or what cultural changes the company made, except for requiring two drivers instead of one (would it make a difference within 5.6 seconds when the driver had to save Herzberg's life?). Despite the fact that Sumwalt stated in its opening remarks that it hoped that other AV companies would learn from this, it was not clear what they would learn.

Certainly the summary of the dissertation does not contain any guidelines. It contains recommendations for NHTSA, the state of Arizona, the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, as well as for Uber, which are presented in full below:

Complete the implementation of a safety management system for automated tests of the vehicle driving system, which includes at least a safety policy, safety risk management, safety assurance and safety promotion.

These "recommendations" are trivial Homer Simpson-esque because of their lack of content, as if repeating the word "security" was enough.

To be clear, NTSB cannot actually punish anyone. It conducts investigations and issues recommendations, although they certainly have the right to improve these.

But the NTSB's coziness to Uber – in a not very veiled blow to Elon Musk, Sumwalt thanked Uber's CEO for not breaking up with him – it would have been just a weird curiosity, if it didn't mean that Uber structurally doesn't hold Uber responsible in any meaningful way for his death Herzberg. prosecutors refused to charge Uber for all crimes. Herzberg's family reached an undisclosed settlement with the company less than two weeks after the disaster, before many of the facts underlying the case were revealed.

After all, the person who can take the greatest responsibility for all this is the safety driver. Prosecutors did not rule out her accusation, and she was the only person mentioned in the justification of the reason for the NTSB.

Of course, the safety driver is far from perfect. Occasionally, she watched clips from The Voice on her smartphone supported under the steering wheel within a few minutes before the crash. She paid no attention to the road. It can save someone's life.

But that's exactly it; the role of the safety driver is to save lives before killing, not to drive a car. This is an ungrateful and inevitably doomed task when sitting in a car driven by a bad computer program. Linking a safety driver to a vehicle operator, as NTSB does when he calls it an "operator," is a categorical error. The computer didn't drive. It was not a mistake but a goal.

The core here is wrong, except for Uber's series of decisions to introduce computer-powered cars unacceptably high failure rates on the road was Uber's ignorance – or willful rejection –decades of research that shows that people do not share responsibility well with computers, explore Waymo's rival they adopted and learned many years earlier. Waymo, armed with much the same information and technology as Uber, he agreed that he would not take risks. Uber did.

Someone must always control the car. When this car is operated by a computer program, the company that creates it has control. When this computer program is very poor at driving, no one has control. Even a human backup driver can't make up for it.

The most cynical interpretation of the role of a safety driver in all this is one fall guy. In this interpretation, they should be blamed for something that went wrong. I don't know if I'm ready to go that far, but if that was the plan from the outset, Uber's disaster suggests he was good. After all, Uber has full legal clarity because he has paid almost no price, both legally and financially, for this disaster. They even got a representative from investigators for saying everything that was right. The security driver can still go to jail.

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