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Monday, 08 October 2018 21:10

Future of Autonomous Vehicles Is Bright With Uber, Toyota Collaboration

Written by Lindsey Slusher, Collegiate Times
An Uber self-driving Ford Fusion sits at a traffic light on Beechwood Boulevard and waits to turn onto Fifth Avenue in Pittsburgh. An Uber self-driving Ford Fusion sits at a traffic light on Beechwood Boulevard and waits to turn onto Fifth Avenue in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette / Tribune News Service


Uber badly needed a pick-me-up.


After a successful start, the ride-hailing service has recently encountered numerous issues while trying to stay ahead of the curve---most notably, deadly driverless car crashes. After failing to adjust previous issues, Uber now must accept its faults and seek help or else face an inevitable downturn in business.


The driverless car trend came after the development of the Tesla by Elon Musk, which supposedly has full self-driving capability at a safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver. Of course, other companies---like Volvo, Audi, Toyota and even Uber---want to be able to compete at the same level and have developed their own autonomous models.


However, these developments do not come without consequences, especially for Uber. The cars were having trouble driving through construction zones and next to tall vehicles---like tractor trailers. In addition, Uber’s human drivers had to intervene much more frequently than the drivers of competing autonomous cars. To compare, Google’s self-driving car project went on average 5,600 miles before the driver had to take control, while Uber drivers were barely going 13 miles without having to take over. Obviously, Uber was encountering engineering obstacles, but not a lot seemed to be happening in the way of fixing the issues before they became serious.


Unfortunately, Uber didn’t heed the warnings. The straw that ultimately broke Uber’s back was the fatal crash of one of its autonomous cars in March 2018. A Volvo traveling in autonomous mode struck a woman walking her bicycle across the street outside of the crosswalk. Although the car system detected the woman about six seconds before the vehicle struck her, it failed to take any corrective action. After seemingly brushing over previous issues, this was Uber’s much-needed wake-up call.


The first question that comes to anyone’s mind: How do these things keep happening? Strangely enough, before the fatal crash in March, Uber engineers had intentionally disabled the Volvo’s emergency braking system to reduce the potential for erratic behavior, but did not program the system to alert the human driver to manually brake. Such glaring negligence on the part of Uber engineers demonstrates a potentially life-threatening shortfall in their technological knowledge. To avoid possible crippling of its widely used service, Uber desperately needed the guidance and expertise of a true car manufacturer.

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