Sign up to receive 5 free days of our daily summary for tech news.

Autonomous Vehicles Uber/Lyft

Uber Finds Deadly Accident Likely Caused By Software Set to Ignore Objects On Road

Uber has determined that the likely cause of a fatal collision involving one of its prototype self-driving cars in Arizona in March was a problem with the software that decides how the car should react to objects it detects, according to two people briefed about the matter.

The car’s sensors detected the pedestrian, who was crossing the street with a bicycle, but Uber’s software decided it didn’t need to react right away. That’s a result of how the software was tuned. Like other autonomous vehicle systems, Uber’s software has the ability to ignore “false positives,” or objects in its path that wouldn’t actually be a problem for the vehicle, such as a plastic bag floating over a road. In this case, Uber executives believe the company’s system was tuned so that it reacted less to such objects. But the tuning went too far, and the car didn’t react fast enough, one of these people said.

No subscription? You're missing out.

Join the high-powered community of tech and business leaders who rely on The Information's original news and in-depth reporting.

The Uber unit, known as Advanced Technologies Group (ATG), has around 1,500 employees, including plenty of well-regarded engineers, and more than 200 prototype cars. CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said last fall it was an important investment. He added in public comments this year that Uber would partner with other self-driving car developers who would make vehicles available to its riders. “Winning is making sure that we have every single autonomous player plugged into the network...because the network is our business,” he said.

—Priya Anand contributed to this article

6 total comments
Noah David, Michael D. Geer and 4 others commented on this article.
Read comments from top tech and industry leaders
Joe Lonsdale
Joe Lonsdale
Founding Partner, Eight
Chamath Palihapitiya
Chamath Palihapitiya
Founder & Managing Partner, SocialCapital
Tina Sharkey
Tina Sharkey
CEO, Brandless
Jonah Peretti
Jonah Peretti
CEO, Buzzfeed
Adam D'Angelo
Adam D'Angelo
CEO, Quora
Brit Morin
Brit Morin
Founder & CEO, Brit + CO
Dustin Moskovitz
Dustin Moskovitz
Co-Founder, Asana
Christina Miller
Christina Miller
President & General Manager, Turner
Max Levchin
Max Levchin
CEO, Affirm
Adam Mosseri
Adam Mosseri
Director of Product, Facebook
Alex Mather
Alex Mather
The Athletic
Martha Josephson
Martha Josephson
Partner, Egon Zehnder
James Murdoch
James Murdoch
Co-Chief Operating Officer, 21st Century Fox
Andrew Kortina
Andrew Kortina
Founder, Venmo
Ben Chestnut
Ben Chestnut
Co-Founder & CEO, Mailchimp
Ruchi Sanghvi
Ruchi Sanghvi
VP Operations, Dropbox
Login or Subscribe to follow the discussions happening here and real-time in our   Slack Community.
Uber’s findings may cause other self-driving car developers to examine the kind of software tuning they do to deal with potential false positives.