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A shot from an ABC TV station in Tempe, Arizona, after an Uber self-driving car killed a pedestrian. Photo by AP.
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Autonomous Vehicles Uber/Lyft

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

Photo: A shot from an ABC TV station in Tempe, Arizona, after an Uber self-driving car killed a pedestrian. Photo by AP.

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.

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