Thursday, March 29, 2018

"Uber self-driving car death riddle: Was LIDAR blind spot to blame?"

Following up on "Uber Killing Pedestrians: There's More to the Story".

From The Register, March 26:
Biz scaled back number of sensors from five to just one
The death of a pedestrian in Arizona by an Uber self-driving car may have been the result of a blind spot caused by the use of a single LIDAR sensor on the roof.

In 2016, Uber decided to shift from using Ford Fusion cars to Volvo XC90s for its self-driving car program.

When it did so, it make big changes to its sensor design: the number of LIDAR sensors were reduced from five to just one – mounted on the roof – and in their place, the number of radar sensors was increased from seven to 10. Uber also reduced the number of cameras on the car from 20 to seven.

Removing LIDAR sensors from the front, back and sides and replacing them with a 360-degree sensor on the roof is more cost-effective but results in a blind spot low to the ground all around the car.

In a remarkable statement, given that Uber's car ran down and killed a pedestrian at night, the president of the company that builds Uber's LIDAR sensors, Marta Hall of Velodyne, told Reuters: "If you're going to avoid pedestrians, you're going to need to have a side LIDAR to see those pedestrians and avoid them, especially at night."

The use of a single LIDAR sensor is all the more remarkable given that other companies running self-driving programs use significantly more: Google-owned Waymo has six on its cars; General Motors uses five....MUCH MORE
As noted in the 'More to the Story' story:
Additionally this all ties into the LIDAR technology Levandowski pilfered from Waymo. After the settlement of Waymo's suit Uber is bending over backward to not infringe on Waymo's patents.
And Uber chose not to use optical systems from MobilEye which Intel paid $15 Billion to acquire.

Seeing the PR opportunity both Waymo and MobilEye had comments:...
For a quick primer on this stuff we have on offer:
Izabella Kaminska In Conversation With the Financial Times' Auto Industry Correspondent, Peter Campbell, on the Prospects for Autonomous Vehicles
Track the link to the video if interested.