First pedestrian killed by autonomous vehicle

KNXV in Arizona reports that a pedestrian died last night after being hit by an autonomous vehicle.

The Uber had a human safety driver but was self-driving when it collided with the victim, according to KNXV. Early reports identified the victim as a bicyclist, but the latest updates say she walked into the street. It appears to be the first pedestrian killed by an autonomous vehicle.

10 pedestrians were killed in the last week by cars driven by humans in Phoenix in what local officials described as a "major crisis."

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US smart traffic flow systems vulnerability would allow a single car to mess up intersection timing

All new cars are equipped with "Connected Vehicle" signaling technology, which allows them to send messages to other cars and to traffic lights and other fixed road infrastructure to help improve road signaling and, eventually, guide self-driving cars. Read the rest

Self-driving cars face a huge challenge in detecting bicycles

Self-driving cars have a hard time predicting bicycle movement, and workarounds that require cyclists to buy transmitters are running into resistance from some. Read the rest

Watch an impressive series of crashes avoided by autonomous vehicles

Some of these near-misses would probably have been catastrophic and unavoidable without predictive autopilot. Read the rest

First driverless shuttle in Las Vegas crashes on first day while shuttling passengers

Las Vegas unleashed its first driverless shuttle packed with passengers yesterday, and within two hours it was hit by a delivery truck with a human driver.

Apparently, the shuttle's sensors recognized the truck – which was backing up – so the shuttle stopped to avoid an accident. The truck, however, did not stop and it hit the shuttle. Luckily, it was minor and no one was hurt.

According to the Huffington Post:

“The shuttle just stayed still and we were like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s gonna hit us, it’s gonna hit us!’ and then, it hit us!” passenger Jenny Wong told KSNV. “And the shuttle didn’t have the ability to move back, either. Like, the shuttle just stayed still.”

Fortunately, no humans were injured in the crash, the city said.

The eight-passenger shuttle is currently offering free rides to people along a half-mile loop in the city’s Fremont East “Innovation District.” The operation is part of a 12-month pilot program, the city said.

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An in-depth look at Castle, Waymo's fake city for testing self-driving cars

Alexis Madrigal got a chance to visit the fascinating town of Castle, a roads-only city constructed by Waymo for the sole purpose of developing self-driving cars. Read the rest

Baidu to launch self-driving car technology project 'Apollo' in July

The Chinese tech firm Baidu said Tuesday it will launch a self-driving car technology in July. A first release will involve a restricted environment, but the company plans to gradually introduce “fully autonomous driving capabilities on highways and open city roads by 2020,” Reuters reports. Read the rest

Securing driverless taxis is going to be really, really hard

Charlie Miller made headlines in 2015 as part of the team that showed it was possible to remote-drive a Jeep Cherokee over the internet, triggering a 1.4 million vehicle recall; now, he's just quit a job at Uber where he was working on security for future self-driving taxis, and he's not optimistic about the future of this important task. Read the rest

A confusatorium for self-driving cars

James "New Aesthetics" Bridle (previously) wants to confuse your autonomous vehicle, so he's designed this Autonomous Trap 001, a sequencing scheme with lots of room for growth. Read the rest

If Google wins its trade secrets suit against Uber, it could tank Uber

Google is suing Uber, alleging that the company recruited a former Google exec who had secretly offered to give them access to trade-secrets from Google's self-driving car project. Read the rest

The six official levels of autonomous vehicles explained

Self-driving cars can mean a number of different things, so the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration adopted a zero-to-5 scale of the types of automation created by SAE International, with level zero being non-autonomous. Generally: Read the rest

Autonomous driving simulators may help reduce driverless anxiety

Visteon makes high-definition dashboard displays for instrument clusters, navigation panels, and entertainment systems. They also know the future is autonomous driving, and to help anxious customers get a sense of the technological possibilities, they are developing driving simulators that demonstrate manual vs. autonomous driving conditions. Read the rest

Tesla announces full self-driving hardware on all models

Tesla released a video of a commute from home to office, including parking as a demonstration of its fully self-driving hardware. "The person in the driver's seat is only there for legal reasons.

He is not doing anything. The car is driving itself." Read the rest

US endorses self-driving cars, with a catch: Feds want to control tech approval, not states

Federal auto safety regulators today said that self-driving cars “will save time, money and lives,” but also sent a clear signal that they want the power to inspect and approve technology before it hits the highways, rather than each U.S. state setting its own safety standards.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said on a press call today that a new federal premarket approval system "would require a lot more upfront discussion, dialogue and staffing on our part."

The government's statement today is big news for Uber, Google, Apple, and other Silicon Valley firms pouring millions of R&D dollars into figuring out how to swap human drivers for smart machines, or at least allow us to share control in “semiautonomous” setups. Read the rest

Tesla promises its upgraded Autopilot is UFO-proof

From Tesla's release notes for its upgraded Autopilot technology based on radar as its primary control sensor:

The net effect of this, combined with the fact that radar sees through most visual obscuration, is that the car should almost always hit the brakes correctly even if a UFO were to land on the freeway in zero visibility conditions.

Taking this one step further, a Tesla will also be able to bounce the radar signal under a vehicle in front - using the radar pulse signature and photon time of flight to distinguish the signal - and still brake even when trailing a car that is opaque to both vision and radar. The car in front might hit the UFO in dense fog, but the Tesla will not.

Of course they're kidding. Or so they'd like us to believe.

Video clip from Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977).

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How self-driving cars could make everything worse, and what to do about it

The promise of self-driving cars is to take our vehicle fleets from 5% utilization to near-100% utilization, reducing congestion, parking problems, emissions and road accidents. But what if the cheapest way to "park" your autonomous vehicle is to have it endlessly circle the block while you're at work? What do we do about the lost jobs of bus-, truck- and cab-drivers? How will we pay for roads if gas-tax revenues plummet thanks to all-electric fleets? Read the rest

In the robot future, only cars will drive

Here's something to fear about self-driving cars! Once they're up and running and insurance companies and legislators realize they're much better at it than humans, you won't even be allowed to drive. Also, the infrastructure is decaying badly and there's no political will to face up to the costs of fixing it, so the roads themselves may end up getting effectively sold off.

Public-private partnerships for roads might begin the erosion of the public right of way. But it’s also possible that autonomous vehicles will all but require limited access to public roads to operate effectively.

Today’s self-driving cars have to be designed and programmed to interact with messy circumstances. Pedestrians, dogs, bicycles, human-driven vehicles, and other obstacles all pose challenges to robocars, and if autonomous vehicles are even modestly successful, avoiding collisions with fallible human drivers will prove a temporary problem. ... The more self-driving cars there are on the roads, the less complex and more predictable the overall behavior of traffic becomes.

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