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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Cybersecurity of Voting Machines

Tuesday, 5 December, 2017
Dr. Matt Blaze's House testimony on the security of voting machines.

Dr. Matt Blaze’s House testimony on the security of voting machines.

#VotingMachines #eVoting It worries me that some form of e-voting was used in last Calgary municipal elections and more are being studied to be potentially used in the future. (Case of I don’t know enough.) As someone who has been following e-voting and development of secure voting machines for decades (a company I used to work for had a team that develop e-voting system), I have my serious reservations with e-voting and voting machines and want all levels of Canadian governments (city, provincial, federal) to study slow and proceed very very very carefully!

To learn more, I’m watching UPenn’s Dr. Matt Blaze‘s House testimony on the security of voting machines.

Cybersecurity of Voting Machines (26m45s)

More of Dr. Blaze‘s testimonies here at these timecodes: 35m30s ; 54m19s ; 1h5m56s ; 1h30m30s ; 1h44m02s ; 1h48m25s and following individually video links to specific timecode segments.

Read the rest of this entry »


Meet Geoffrey Hinton, U of T’s Godfather of Deep Learning

Thursday, 26 October, 2017

//Meet Geoffrey Hinton: U of T Professor Emeritus of computer science, an Engineering Fellow at Google, and Chief Scientific Adviser at the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence.

In this interview with U of T News, Prof. Hinton discusses his career, the field of artificial intelligence and the importance of funding curiosity-driven scientific research.//

Proud to be a UT computer science grad. Wish I had taken a class from Prof. Hinton.

Meet Geoffrey Hinton, U of T’s Godfather of Deep Learning

This video of “Panel of Pioneers” at RE-WORK (Deep Learning Summit Track 1, Montreal, 2017) is a great watch.

Intro from Yann (FB Director of AI Research) LeCun’s FB page.

//Video of the panel in which Yoshua Bengio, Geoffrey Hinton and I answer questions moderated by Joelle Pineau (who leads the FAIR-Montréal lab).

This took place at the Re*Work deep learning summit in Montreal a few weeks ago.//

Intro from the web page (with video, ~23 minutes).

//Overview

The Deep Learning Summit took place in Montreal on 10-11 October 2017 and brought together global AI pioneers including: Yoshua Bengio, Yann LeCun, and Geoffrey Hinton, as well as experts from companies including Intel, NVIDIA, Twenty Billion Neurons and Apple.

We’re currently working on the videos for the summit so please fill in the form below and we’ll email you when they’re ready.//


Julie Payette – Canada’s next Governor General

Thursday, 13 July, 2017

I’m thrilled and excited to hear Ms. Julie Payette, TA of myUniversity of Toronto Computer Science CSC258 class (I wrote more in this post), has been named Canada’s next Governor General.

2017 July 13, CBC News, “‘Unquestionably qualified’: Ex-astronaut Julie Payette formally introduced as Canada’s next GG – Prime minister holds news conference on Parliament Hill to name successor to David Johnston

U of T News, “U of T alumna Julie Payette to be next Governor General

Via CBC Politics LIVE FB post.

Have a watch of this amazing CBC Witness (1993) documentary “Space For Four (1993)


Pick and Place machines

Monday, 17 October, 2016

I re-watched Joi Ito‘s fascinating TED Talk ‘Want to innovate? Become a “now-ist”‘ again and got fascinated by Pick and Place machines (ref: Samsung) once again!

Here are three blog post by Limor Fried (Ladyada), owner of the electronics hobbyist company Adafruit Industries.

  1. APRIL 15, 2013 SAMSUNG TECHWIN SMT SM482 training today #manufacturing #madeinny @madeinny
  2. AUGUST 8, 2013 Adafruit donates its first pick and place machine to NYC Resistor Hackerspace @nycresistor
  3. MAY 12, 2014 SAMSUNG SM481 arrived today – almost doubling our manufacturing capabilities and more #makerbusiness #manufacturing

Joi Ito‘s fascinating TED Talk ‘Want to innovate? Become a “now-ist”


Happy 92nd Birthday to “Father of Computing in Canada” Prof. Kelly Gotlieb

Wednesday, 27 March, 2013

 

eps02 with Prof. Kelly Gotlieb, Father of Computing in Canada

Happy 92nd Birthday to Professor Emeritus C.C. Kelly Gotlieb, (Wikipedia) “Father of Computing in Canada”, Department of Computer Science, University of Toronto. I am happy to be able to reach Kelly today to wish him happy birthday, good health and all the best!

In recent weeks, I had the honour and pleasure to interview Kelly extensive twice, once via video using Google+ Hangout On Air, another time using Skype audio. Have a watch & listen. Enjoy. Happy 92nd birthday Kelly!

eps02 chat with “Father of Computing in Canada” Prof. Kelly Gotlieb (Ref original article)

Interview with “Father of Computing in Canada” Prof Gotlieb re Google Car, Google Glasses, Alan Turing (Ref original article)

2018 April 19th update: I’m very sad to report the passing of Prof. Kelly Gotlieb on October 16th, 2016 at the age of 95. Have a read of these insightful obits:

  1.  “Kelly Gotlieb was the father of Canadian computing”. The Globe and Mail
  2. “In Memoriam: The “Father of Computing in Canada” Calvin C. Gotlieb”. University of Toronto Computer Science
  3. “In Memoriam: Calvin Carl “kelly” Gotlieb 1921-2016″. Communications of the ACM

This excerpt from the G&M obit really touched me and warmed my heart,

“Kelly and Phyllis Gotlieb had one of the great love affairs. In a 2015 interview, six years after his wife’s death, Dr. Gotlieb said of their relationship: “A scientist who loves poetry and a poet who loves science … It doesn’t get any better than that.” Dr. Gotlieb spent his professional life on the frontier of techno-scientific knowledge, while his wife Phyllis (née Bloom) was an award-winning writer of poetry and speculative fiction who pondered how discoveries such as those of her husband might affect the mind, soul and society of humankind. In their breadth, depth and passion of interests, they were a two-person university.

One of her books of verse was a compilation of love poems sent to her husband over more than 60 years of marriage. The publication of Phyllis Loves Kelly [downloadable via this U of T library page] marked their diamond wedding anniversary in June, 2009; six weeks later she died suddenly at the age of 83. His epitaph to her was: She Graced This World/And Imagined Others. Her tribute to him lies in her final volume of poetry, where she compares herself to the famous fictional cat created by American humourist Don Marquis:

        If like a tom and tab
we sometimes hiss and scratch and jab
I’m still from here to Heaven or Hell
your favourite
                 Mehitabel


U of Toronto University Professor Emeritus Stephen A. Cook won NSERC $1 million Herzberg Medal – with interview by Kempton

Wednesday, 27 February, 2013

20130227 Professor Cook interview pix

Congratulations to University of Toronto Computer Science professor Stephen Cook, best known for formulating the P v. NP problem, for winning the $1M 2012 Gerhard Herzberg medal (also via CBC News)!

After all these years, I still remember the thrill in taking my first year UT Comp. Sci class in 1987 with prof. Cook! And it remains an honour (and bragging right) to have taken the famous third year CSC364 Computability and Complexity class with prof. Cook and seeing him proved to us 3-satisfiability and taught us P v. NP, etc. I am truly excited for prof. Cook!

Check out my 15 minutes interview with Prof. Cook this morning: Interview with Dr. Stephen A. Cook, 2012 Winner of NSERC’s $1m Herzberg Medal

By the way, as prof. cook mentioned in the interview, he came to the idea of the NP complete problem about 6 months after he came to Toronto in 1970. If you read the detailed & insightful oral history interview with Stephen Cook (courtesy of University of Minnesota), you will realize professor Cook could have easily stayed at UC Berkeley (if they had not denied him tenure) instead of joining us at University of Toronto! Lucky us!

Last week, I asked prof. Kelly Gotlieb “Father of Computing in Canada” for his thoughts about some giants in computer science, here is what Kelly has to say about Steve (video clip).

Here is “NSERC Presents 2 Minutes With Stephen Cook

Here is an excerpt from a great Q&A from U of Toronto.

What drew you to this field – and to this particular focus?
I enrolled as a mathematics graduate student at Harvard in 1961, thinking I’d concentrate in algebra. Computer Science did not yet exist as a discipline. After taking a course in `logic and computation’ from Hao Wang, my future advisor, I switched fields. My PhD thesis was inspired by a question posed by a pioneer in the field named Alan Cobham: Is multiplication (of large numbers) intrinsically harder than addition? Part of the challenge was to formulate this as a precise mathematical question.

Why U of T?
I joined the faculty of the computer science department at U of T in 1970. This was one of the world’s first CS departments, and Tom Hull, the department chair, had a powerful vision for its future. He already had recruited some aspiring young faculty, including my close colleague Allan Borodin, who continues to be a pillar of the department. It helped that Toronto is a good sailing venue on Lake Ontario, and sailing was (and is) a major hobby for my wife and me.

What advice would you give to a student just starting out in this field?
You’ve made a good choice. The possibilities are boundless.

Via this UT page, see more media coverage about the 2012 Herzberg Prize at these links below:

“- Globe & Mail

– Canada.com

– Calgary Herald

– CBC News


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