What transportation and subsidized ride sharing giant has both a stringent no firearms policy and is actively testing self-driving cars in high density pedestrian corridors and not in the safe and controlled environment of a closed course. Ding, Ding Ding, did somebody order an Uber?
The Silicon Valley company endured a terrible 2017 in terms of damaging and disparaging headlines, which included parting ways with a driver who utilized a nifty self-defense manuever in averting an armed freeway hijacking attempt by firing at the perpetrators, and the ongoing subversive and borderline illegal battle with Google in the race to corner the self-driving automobile market. 2018 has gotten off to a rather chilling start.
Fox News reports that Uber’s plan to launch a fleet of automated cars to the consumer space took an absolutely staggering and stumbling three steps back, as a prototype with a driver hit and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona Sunday night. The victim, a 49-year-old female, was crossing a busy intersection when she was tragically struck by the vehicle and later died from injuries at a local hospital. Authorities estimate that the car was travelling at 40 miles per hour at the time of the crash. The driver and the company are apparently cooperating with law enforcement officials as the investigation continues. Uber has suspended all self-driving vehicle testing.
While thoughts and prayers go out the victim’s friends and family, the speculation must begin in attempting to unravel just what the hell happened in leading to the unfortunate incident that was completely preventable. The most obvious question surrounds the reality that even though the car was in autonomous mode at the time of the accident, why was the human driver not able to intervene and slam on the brakes? As details continue to emerge, the other pending controversy is why Uber is conducting live testing with unknown variables and placing a possible risk factor towards pedestrians and other drivers? It is an extremely dangerous and reckless policy to prioritize technological development over public safety. In the case of Uber’s testing protocol, a death resulting from an oversight, is completely inexcusable. Sure accidents on the roadways happen and people are injured or die as result, but not from highly experimental technology that still contains some major bugs.
This whole crazy narrative highlights the true disconnect between the technology industry and the real world, and is a very disturbing indication of the nightmare of the near future as existing technology is replaced by software. Rumblings from the software community and the legions of testers in the wake of the accident indicate that the concept of the self-driving car is not popular among techies, as the process of software testing is a lacking alternative to the classic discipline of engineering. The arrogance and oversight magnified by the “stuck behind a computer screen” mentality and an absence of street smarts may have contributed to the asinine choice of commencing testing on city streets with real cars and real people over the safety of proving grounds. The major automobile manufacturers utilize real engineers and prototypes are tested, tested and retested in controlled environments, and the tech industry should be held to the same standards of redundancy, accountability and safety.
The majority of cars cannot be hacked and drivers are completely responsible for following the rules of the roadways, and there is a certain level of comfort in knowing that billions of years of evolution have produced brains that are eloquent and complex enough to react to rapidly changing conditions and slamming on the brakes if need be. A machine will never replace the adaptability and free will of a mind, nor should it. Drones, self-driving cars, virtual reality, and perpetually hovering nuclear missiles- it is a brave new world.
Read the Fox News article here.