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Transportation

Uber Admits To Self-driving Car 'Problem' in Bike Lanes As Safety Concerns Mount (theguardian.com) 383

Uber has admitted that there is a "problem" with the way autonomous vehicles cross bike lanes, raising serious questions about the safety of cyclists days after the company announced it would openly defy California regulators over self-driving vehicles. From a report on The Guardian: An Uber spokeswoman said on Monday that engineers were working to fix a flaw in the programming that advocates feared could have deadly consequences for cyclists. Uber began piloting its self-driving vehicles in its home town of San Francisco last week, despite state officials' declaration that the ride-share company needed special permits to test its technology. On day one, numerous autonomous vehicles -- which have a driver in the front seat who can take control -- were caught running red lights and committing a range of traffic violations. Despite threats of legal action from the department of motor vehicles (DMV) and California's attorney general, Kamala Harris, Uber refused to back down on Friday, claiming its rejection of government authority was "an important issue of principle."
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Uber Admits To Self-driving Car 'Problem' in Bike Lanes As Safety Concerns Mount

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  • Driver's license (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Is the only punishment of the driver a fine? I would think you don't get to drive a car for a year or two if you are caught "driving" one of these.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 20, 2016 @12:26PM (#53523433)

      The city should impound the vehicles.

  • by __aaclcg7560 ( 824291 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2016 @12:24PM (#53523407)
    So Uber's driver-less cars drive like a soccer mom trying to get her spawn to school?
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2016 @12:24PM (#53523411)
    We're "sorry" that our "independently" owned and operated "self-driving" car went into the "bike" lane and "killed" your wife last night. Here is our "generous" offer: $250K, sign this "no fault" agreement, and "GTFO."
    • Here is our "generous" offer: $250K, sign this "no fault" agreement, and "GTFO."

      Sounds like a grocery store offer. When my mother slipped and fell in an grocery store, the manager offered her $500 on the spot. She went to small claims court and won $2,000 instead.

    • $250K, sign this "no fault" agreement, and "GTFO."

      I guess it's a better offer than the divorce.

    • A lot of states have tort limits for personal injuries, so this will vary by state. It is unlikely to ever be more than 75% of any states' tort limit. If you sue and win, the attorney fees would actually make you win less than settling.

      • by slew ( 2918 )

        A lot of states have tort limits for personal injuries, so this will vary by state. It is unlikely to ever be more than 75% of any states' tort limit. If you sue and win, the attorney fees would actually make you win less than settling.

        IANAL, but my understanding in nearly all cases the tort-caps only affect non-economic damages (e.g., pain suffering). If you have actual economic damages (e.g., doctor's bills, lost wages, loss of future employability etc), you can nearly always sue for 100% of established economic damages.

  • wow (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 20, 2016 @12:27PM (#53523445)

    Uber, because we just weren't happy that everyone thought we didn't care about our "employees"... so we had to prove we don't care about anybodys' safety!!!

    burn in hell, Uber... burn in Hell

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 20, 2016 @12:29PM (#53523467)

    It only took a self driving car to point out the bike lanes that should have been designed differently to be safer for cyclists to begin with.

    • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2016 @12:36PM (#53523559)
      >> It only took a self driving car to point out the bike lanes that should have been designed differently to be safer for cyclists to begin with.

      ^^^ This. Bike lines on any street with speed limits > 35mph? Fail. (Get the cyclists on a parallel path.) Bike lines that double as parking on city streets? Fail. (Get the cyclists onto the less-busy streets.) Bike lanes in roundabouts? Fail. (Let the cyclists use the off-circle sidewalks - there is no such thing as a "low impact" crash if you aren't wearing a car.)

      I could go on, but someone please mod this AC up.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 20, 2016 @02:06PM (#53524485)

        Bike lanes on any street with 35mph speed limits? Physically separate the lane.

        Bike lanes double as parking? Remove the parking.

        Bike lanes in roundabouts? Fine - works all over the world.

        I could go on. Your solutions are not solutions, they're shifting the problem.

    • Bikes shouldn't be on the street, period. You couldn't pay me enough money to ride a bike in traffic. The laws of physics say you're gonna lose badly.

      • I totally agree. Where I live in Switzerland, there are no shoulders and bikes ride in the road and are not allowed on sidewalks.

        This seems like a category error to me.

        "Hey, cars have wheels, bikes have wheels, therefore bikes and cars should use the same space"

        Instead the categorization in my mind could be:

        "Hey, pedestrians and bikes are almost the same mass, almost the same size, and much closer in speed, maybe they should share infrastructure instead."

        Unintended collision of bikes and pedestrians are muc

        • Hey, pedestrians and bikes are almost the same mass, and much closer in speed

          If the pedestrian is a toddler, your first claim is wrong. If the rider is an idiot, the second claim is wrong.

          Had a near miss this when some asshat came flying round a blind corner. Missed my kid by inches, and only because I pulled him out of the way; made no attempt to slow down or swerve. And the fucking asshat yelled at me. It's a sidewalk, not a sideride.

    • by Luthair ( 847766 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2016 @02:51PM (#53524897)
      Its more of a cultural problem, go to Copenhagen and you can see it actually works well.
  • Sensors? (Score:2, Insightful)

    I thought these sensors were all-seeing all-knowing? Why can't they simply detect a cyclist and avoid it as they would avoid a car? How long before these run over someone's pet?
    • Re:Sensors? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bfpierce ( 4312717 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2016 @12:32PM (#53523499)

      "How long before these run over someone's pet?"

      That happens all the time with regular drivers, so it's not really the point is it?

      If you can prove that these lead to accidents less frequently than a human driver that's an improvement. The goal is not, nor will it ever be, 0 accidents.

    • How long before these run over someone's pet?

      What is your pet doing roaming the streets?

      Okay, sometimes you can't help it. One of our family dogs when I was a kid loved to dig under the fence and escape despite our efforts to stop him. As it turned out all he really wanted was a ride in the car and if my father picked him up a mile away from our house, he got to hang his head out the window for a few minutes.

      That was an explanation anyway, borne out that after a while my dad would just honk the horn a few times in the driveway and the dog would come

      • by jbengt ( 874751 )

        Keep your cat indoors . . .

        But if I keep my cat indoors, who'll catch the mice?
        Not my dogs - they don't do stealth. The dogs will just run after the mice and bark as the mice scurry away safely into their hiding place.

    • If they run over cyclists you can be damn sure they'll run over pedestrians too.

  • by smooth wombat ( 796938 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2016 @12:30PM (#53523481) Journal

    San Francisco, if it's government had any balls, would start booting all Uber self-driving cabs based on the risk to society.

    Then, start fining the Uber cab company $10K per day it's in violation.

    Uber's claim it's on principle is crap. They have admitted their cabs are a danger to society but they continue to run them anyway. When, not if, their cab plows into someone or causes an accident I hope the people use Ubers own words against them when they take them to court.

    It's the principle of the thing.

    • San Francisco, if it's government had any balls, would start booting all Uber self-driving cabs based on the risk to society.

      San Francisco drivers could do a better job. One time I was in the middle lane of a busy street when the light changed green. The driver in the right lane suddenly decided to make a left hand turn in front of me. I always count to three after the light changes before I start moving while driving in San Francisco.

      • San Francisco drivers could do a better job.

        From what I've seen, the worst offenders are their police detectives.

        In almost every show I've watched, they race through the city in muscle cars or full-size sedans at reckless speeds, going airborne at each hilly intersection. Half the time they miss hitting a trolley by mere inches. It's just crazy.

  • Shocking (Score:5, Insightful)

    by acoustix ( 123925 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2016 @12:33PM (#53523515)

    A company who has refused to follow state and city laws for years is ignoring more laws.

    • How do I make myself a company?
    • by msauve ( 701917 )
      "A company who has refused to follow state and city laws for years is ignoring more laws."

      ...in a city which itself ignores [sfchronicle.com] the law [cornell.edu].
  • Make Them Bleed (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Princeofcups ( 150855 ) <john@princeofcups.com> on Tuesday December 20, 2016 @12:41PM (#53523607) Homepage

    Considering my last parking ticket in SF was $350 (for street cleaning. I SHIT YOU NOT!), just charge Uber for every violation. They will be bankrupt in no time.

    • by BancBoy ( 578080 )
      As the current street cleaning ticket in SF is $66, it sounds like there were more violations involved in your incident.
  • Silly (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BrookHarty ( 9119 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2016 @12:46PM (#53523665) Homepage Journal

    "Traffic laws are for humans" - Uber

    Its getting to be like Death Race 2000 out there, watch out humans.

  • Ride share (Score:4, Informative)

    by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2016 @12:46PM (#53523671) Homepage Journal
    Uber isn't a ride share service! It is a unlicensed taxi service! It doesn't have the same rules and regulations that taxi companies have to abide by. That is why taxi service is so much better, cleaner and safer in the US. Right?
  • Back in the 80's, KITT didn't have this problem....

  • All Uber has to do is to pay the state for autonomous car permits. Then everything will be fine.

    • I can just see it. Having acquired autonomous car permits, Uber proudly announces that it can now ignore cyclists with impunity.
  • While this doesn't instill a lot of confidence in uber's system, i wonder if this is really the standard to hold self driving cars to. Our traffic rules are built with the faults of human drivers in mind. Humans have more blind area than vision so we make rules like, Don't cross into this lane ever, or Don't go when the light is this color. Do these rules ultimately need to apply to autonomous cars? A part of me has more faith that a robot with 360 degree vision and lidar can make a better judgement call [t
    • Our traffic rules are built with the faults of human drivers in mind. Humans have more blind area than vision so we make rules like, Don't cross into this lane ever, or Don't go when the light is this color. Do these rules ultimately need to apply to autonomous cars?

      Except they are also built for traffic control as well. For some busy streets, the only way you are going to cross it is when the traffic has to stop for red light.

      • Yeah, but that's also due in part to human nature. Human drivers don't always like yielding. Many take it as losing out in some battle of wills or being dominated by someone else. Assuming it's physically possible, a robot car will simply stop if you step out in front of it.
    • I had thought that an autonomous car would sense any and all objects in the road, sense their movement, and not impede on their movement. Therefore I don't see why it would have to understand bike lanes at all, just know that there is a bicyclist there and don't drive into them. It kind of worries me about the state of AI if it doesn't operate with that simple rule.
  • Hit & Run (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kimvette ( 919543 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2016 @01:28PM (#53524101) Homepage Journal

    An interesting legal issue; what will happen when (not if) one of their vehicles is involved in a hit & run collision, and for the traffic violations? If the decision makers at Uber are willing to take on the felony charges and traffic violations and do time or pay the fines out of their own personal pockets when this happens then we should be all for them testing without the proper permits and no drivers in the vehicles.

    • I would say damages would be covered by their vehicle insurance. If the insurance company they are with had been too stupid to realize what they were insuring, then the insurance company would sue Uber.
  • by wwalker ( 159341 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2016 @01:45PM (#53524279) Journal

    > claiming its rejection of government authority was "an important issue of principle."

    Which means next time you see a self-driving Uber, feel free to scratch the fuck out of it any way you see fit, break the headlights, or even steal it if you like. Since Uber doesn't recognize the government authority on principal, they must have given up police protection as well.

  • by userw014 ( 707413 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2016 @01:52PM (#53524343) Homepage

    The California law REQUIRES the automobile to USE the bike lane to make the right hand turn.

    Michigan law FORBIDS the automobile from using the bike lane (except to cross it.)

    I can believe other states are even more complicated..

    • by aaarrrgggh ( 9205 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2016 @03:01PM (#53525011)
      The only time autos can drive in the bike lane in California is when it drops from a class two bike lane to a class three shared lane bike route. Standard marking is that the white line separating the auto lane from the bike lane becomes dashed, the little "bike vector" symbol is typically painted on the shared lane, and cars can turn right.

      The laws don't conflict, just the way that the transitions are done. (Arizona allows crossing the bike lane at dashed lines, but maintains a class two lane through the intersection as an example.)
  • by wisnoskij ( 1206448 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2016 @02:01PM (#53524423) Homepage

    As long as the Owner/CEO gets treated as the driver in all cases. If an auto Uber car runs over a person, throw Kalanick in jail for a few years, and revoke the company's license to operate autonomous vehicles for a few decades.

  • by DarthVain ( 724186 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2016 @02:17PM (#53524601)

    ...a Bike problem to me.

  • numerous errors seen (Score:5, Informative)

    by clovis ( 4684 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2016 @02:18PM (#53524613)

    So I looked at the video in the article
    https://www.theguardian.com/te... [theguardian.com]

    1) It's a one-way street, and the crosswalk has SIX red lights. one over each lane, two at the sidewalk before and after the crosswalk. How did the sensors miss all those lights? Was it looking at tree and decided "Green? Keep going ..."

    2) There is a pedestrian stepping into the crosswalk and the Uber drove past him. In Ga, all traffic must stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk, and I'm quite that sure Ca's law is even more strict.

    3) The uber passes a car already stopped for the red light at the crosswalk. I don't know California law, but in Georgia it is also illegal to pass a car stopped for a pedestrian at a crosswalk. It's also common sense - you can't see if the car was stopped for a child/short person/wheelchair attempting to cross, so you should stop first and look second in that situation.

    4) the light turned yellow at the 2 second mark in the video, and the Uber went though at 11 seconds, so it's not even close.

    5) common sense that people have: If I'm coming to an intersection and other cars are stopping, I slow and look around; I know something is happening.
    maybe the light changed while I was dozing, or maybe a passenger is going to open the door in front of me.
    It appears that the Uber lacks this sort of situational awareness, but I don't know if the human was given an alert and ignored it in this case.

  • by Macdude ( 23507 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2016 @02:56PM (#53524947)

    As a cyclist if a self-driving car cuts me off in a bike lane or otherwise tries to kill me I'll put my bike lock through one of its windows. That way the car owner will learn of the incident.

  • by tchdab1 ( 164848 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2016 @03:12PM (#53525133) Homepage

    Uber is all about bypassing and ignoring regulations and laws in the name of profit. I hope San Francisco can find a way to ensure they follow the rules, and prosecute them fully when they don't.

  • by twasserman ( 878174 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2016 @03:47PM (#53525501)
    Human Uber drivers tend to run red lights and stop signs, too. So maybe their autonomous vehicles are programmed similarly. Uber humans routinely ignore bike lanes and frequently stop in them. Traffic in San Francisco would be less painful if we didn't always have several thousand ride-hailing drivers cruising the streets while waiting for a fare, adding to the already grim traffic situation here.
  • by dprimary ( 215604 ) on Tuesday December 20, 2016 @04:14PM (#53525793)

    Running red lights and numerous other traffic violations, that is the standard bicyclist operating procedure around here. It is a miracle 50 a day don't die in my city alone.

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