Uber self-driving SUV fatal accident – a Computer Scientist’s views

Thursday, 22 March, 2018

20180324 update: For now, I’ve found these two posts by Brad Templeton to be very insightful and cover some of the issues that I want to write about but Brad wrote in much more detail! Have a read, 03/20 “New facts and questions on Uber robocar fatality” & 03/21 “It certainly looks bad for Uber“. I may still add more if I see more facts of the case especially when Uber starts to voluntarily (or be compelled to) provide more of its internal technical data. I hope Uber won’t try to brush this fatality under the carpet. Will see.

***

I just read some news reports and watched the video of the Uber self-driving SUV fatal accident. (WARNING: Video contains disturbing images. Viewer discretion is advised.) I know I do not have full information yet so I hope to share my views (for now, semi-technical/semi-informed) on this Uber self-driving fatal accident as best as I can. And in the coming days when I have time, I hope to keep updating this post when more technical and police investigative information are available.

A bit of background first. In 2013 February (more than 5 years ago now), I was already interested in driverless technologies and already interviewed U of T Professor Emeritus C.C. Kelly Gotlieb, “Father of Computing in Canada”, to talk about many topics including Google driverless car and issues like whose to blame when an accident happened? Sadly, we now have a fatal accident on hand to talk about.

From the AP report “Experts: Uber self-driving system should have spotted woman”, this Uber self-driving SUV is using LIDAR laser sensors technology to “see”. (note: LIDAR stands for Light Detection and Ranging and it “measures distance to a target by illuminating the target with pulsed laser light” which can see perfectly well even in total darkness as it uses laser.) I made this observation re LIDAR in direct response to this sentence of the news report, “The lights on the SUV didn’t illuminate 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg on Sunday night until a second or two before impact, raising questions about whether the vehicle could have stopped in time.” And the fact the Uber safety driver was NOT paying attention to the road when he killed the 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg!

Let me quote from the AP report “Experts: Uber self-driving system should have spotted woman”,

““The victim did not come out of nowhere. She’s moving on a dark road, but it’s an open road, so Lidar (laser) and radar should have detected and classified her” as a human, said Bryant Walker Smith, a University of South Carolina law professor who studies autonomous vehicles.

Smith said the video may not show the complete picture, but “this is strongly suggestive of multiple failures of Uber and its system, its automated system, and its safety driver.”

Sam Abuelsmaid, an analyst for Navigant Research who also follows autonomous vehicles, said laser and radar systems can see in the dark much better than humans or cameras and that Herzberg was well within the range.

“It absolutely should have been able to pick her up,” he said. “From what I see in the video it sure looks like the car is at fault, not the pedestrian.”

Smith said that from what he observed on the video, the Uber driver appears to be relying too much on the self-driving system by not looking up at the road.

“The safety driver is clearly relying on the fact that the car is driving itself. It’s the old adage that if everyone is responsible no one is responsible,” Smith said. “This is everything gone wrong that these systems, if responsibly implemented, are supposed to prevent.”

The experts were unsure if the test vehicle was equipped with a video monitor that the backup driver may have been viewing.

Uber immediately suspended all road-testing of such autos in the Phoenix area, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto. The National Transportation Safety Board, which makes recommendations for preventing crashes, is investigating the crash.”

I will try to come back to this article and add more details and updates in the coming days when I have more time. Will see.

For now, here is the particular segment of my 5 years old 2013 interview with Prof. Gotlieb talking about “Google [and by extension, any other company’s] Driverless Car gets into an accident, whose to blame? And who can you sue? The person who wrote the program? Google who authorize the car? Car manufacture? The person who is in the car? Or all of the above? […] Lots of questions to be asked when failure happen.”

xxx

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The catch CBC & CTV missed: Loblaws $25 “gift” card/hush money for bread price-fixing

Tuesday, 9 January, 2018

The following three news reports cover various aspect of the Loblaws $25 “gift” card but missed an important catch that I want to discuss in this article.

  1. CBC News, “Loblaws $25 gift card registration now open, but there’s a catch – Signing up for gift card doesn’t preclude participating in class actions, but any payout would be deducted
  2. CTV News, “The catch: What Loblaw wants for its $25 gift card
  3. Huffington Post, “Take Loblaw’s Hush Money, But Don’t Keep Quiet – The bread price-fixing scheme is a moment when the curtain is pulled back and we get a peek into how things really work.

In short, the “catch” as others and CBC reported, “Signing up for gift card (and getting that $25) doesn’t preclude participating in class actions, but any payout would be deducted“.

The catch that is missed at least by CBC, CTV, and even Huffington Post is that as millions of Canadian adults apply for the gift cards is the “Retention and Cross-border Transfer” clause in the “Program Privacy Policy“. The “missed catch” is why should millions of Canadians subject our private and confidential information including

a) Full name
b) Date of Birth
c) Address
d) Home phone number,
e) Mobile phone number, and
f) email address

to courts of foreign countries including El Salvador or other random countries we don’t even know! When we are talking about millions of Canadians’ private and confidential data potentially being “stored, accessed, or used in a country outside of Canada “!! Why shouldn’t our data be treated with more care/respect and be stored in Canada and Canada alone?!

Don’t trust my words blindly. Visit the “Program Privacy Policy” link on the registration page, you will see (emphasis added):

“Program Privacy Policy
[…]
5. Retention and Cross-border Transfer
Personal Information may be stored, accessed, or used in a country outside of Canada by Loblaw, the Program Administrator, Blackhawk and/ or Peoples, or by service providers engaged by any of them, for any of the purposes identified in Section 4 above including the United States and El Salvador. Where Personal Information is located outside of Canada, it is subject to the laws of that jurisdiction which may differ from those in your jurisdiction and any Personal Information transferred to another jurisdiction will be subject to law enforcement and national security authorities in that jurisdiction.”

Canadians may want to question and challenge Loblaws’ Program Privacy Policy. by calling Loblaws and ask them directly or even ask our elected MPs and try to hold our government and the Competition Bureau accountable.

20180109 Loblaws price-fixing - program_privacy_policy - Screen Shot

Loblaws price-fixing – program_privacy_policy – Screen Shot

P.S. The Huffington Post, “Take Loblaw’s Hush Money, But Don’t Keep Quiet” raised some good points. (emphasis added) Read the rest of this entry »


Charlie Munger – Great Minds of Our Time

Sunday, 5 November, 2017

Charlie Munger undoubtedly qualifies as one of my list of Great Minds of Our Time. I may add more to this entry over time. (Review of The Snowball (biography about Warren Buffett) I posted in 2008, another one in my list of Great Minds.)

Charlie Munger Commencement Address – USC

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Do you really own what you bought? New insights from Supreme Court decision Impression Products vs. Lexmark International

Thursday, 1 June, 2017

Supreme Court decision PDF file: Impression Products vs. Lexmark International

Wired, “The Supreme Court Just Bolstered Your Right to Repair Stuff

Impression Products vs. Lexmark International hinged on two points: Did Impression infringe upon Lexmark’s patents by (1) reselling cartridges in the United States when Lexmark explicitly prohibited reuse and resale, and (2) importing without authorization cartridges Lexmark sold abroad. Various courts split on these questions, and everyone from the AARP and Huawei to Costco and the Auto Care Association weighed in when the case finally reached the Supreme Court.

Why all the fuss? Because this wasn’t really about printer toner. It was about your ownership rights, and whether a patent holder can dictate how you repair, modify, or reuse something you’ve purchased. “This case raises important questions about the reach of American patent law and how much control a manufacturer can exert after its products have been lawfully sold,” the editorial board of The New York Times wrote in 2015. “Taken to their logical conclusion, Lexmark’s arguments would mean that producers could use patent law to dictate how things like computers, printers, and other patented goods are used, changed, or resold and place restrictions on international trade.”

Consider this: Countless people hack their Keurig machines to brew “unauthorized” coffee brands. Can Keurig sue them? Could Apple or Samsung stipulate that you can’t resell their products on Craigslist or eBay? Could John Deere claim that a repair tech is infringing upon its patent rights by repairing a broken combine without permission? Consumer rights advocates at the EFF and Public Knowledge worried that a ruling in Lexmark’s favor would “jeopardize independent product refurbishers and repair services”.”


Air Passenger Rights Advocate interview re Passenger Bill of Rights

Wednesday, 17 May, 2017

Transport Minister Marc Garneau - Passenger Bill of Rights news conference

The following is my video interview with Dr. Gabor Lukacs, Air Passenger Rights Advocate, to talk about the new Airline Passenger Bill of Rights (Bill C-49).

Air Passenger Rights Advocate interview re new Passenger Bill of Rights

Legal References:

Dr. Gabor Lukacs, Air Passenger Rights Advocate (FB page), notes references:

News References:

Government news release References:

(May 16, 2017 CBC News Live video, Transport Minister Marc Garneau takes questions about the government’s air passenger bill of rights bill)


Instant Pot DUO-60/DUO-Plus-60 Design Flaw

Thursday, 11 May, 2017

Let me make a few things clear. I enjoy cooking with my iPot (Instant Pot). I even admire the inventor/entrepreneur/company that makes iPot (have a read of this enjoyable and insightful 30th Jan, 2017 Globe & Mail news article “Ottawa entrepreneur’s Instant Pot has attracted a devoted following of home cooks“). I think it is awesome to see Canadian inventor/entrepreneur making a name and money from a great product in US, Canada and around the world.

At the same time, I think it is important to point out problems, or design flaws when we see them. Customer feedbacks are good ways for companies to learn to improve their products over time.

I talk about a design flaw for my Instant Pot DUO-60 in the following video. And then I realized Instant Pot had come out with a newly designed DUO-Plus-60 around April 2017 which unfortunately has the same design flaw (based on unboxing video I watched)  I identified in the video. It is a bit disappointing the design flaw isn’t fixed with the new DUO-Plus-60.

Instant Pot DUO-60/DUO-Plus-60 Design Flaw


Watch Berkshire Hathaway 2017 annual meeting Livestream 10AM ET, May 6th

Tuesday, 2 May, 2017

Have a watch of the livestream of the Berkshire Hathaway 2017 annual event by Yahoo Finance (10AM ET, May 6th Sunday, 2017).

From CNN Money, “Warren Buffett should answer these 6 key questions

Are you ready for the so-called Woodstock of Capitalism? Warren Buffett will address tens of thousands of Berkshire Hathaway shareholders at the company’s annual meeting in Omaha on Saturday.

And many more will be watching the festivities on their phones, computers or tablets thanks to a livestream of the event by Yahoo Finance. This is the second straight year that Yahoo will simulcast the event.

May 10, 2017 update:

May 6th, 2017 Market Watch “Warren Buffett live blog recap: Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting

May 6th, 2017 FT, “Buffett at Berkshire’s annual meeting 2017 – as it happened

Morningstar, “2017 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting Live Blog


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