• alextheparrot 310 days ago
    This job reminds me a lot of when I lifeguarded in high school during the summer. You sit on a chair in the sun, waiting for something to happen. The job is not stimulating, which further increases the difficulty of recognising if someone is in trouble - try watching some rescue training videos [0]. While a lot of the interventions a lifeguard does are prophylactic (“No running!” vs administering first aid to someone who tripped and split their skull open), interventions did happen a few times a month. To make sure those interventions happen when needed, pools implement processes to better manage the risk.

    These processes seem to be the key difference between that job and this one. Rotations every 30 minutes, a manager actively observing for engagement, and overlapping zones of coverage all were instrumental in 0 fatalities - I can recall examples where each of those saved at least one person’s life. Redundancy, supervision, and engagement are what make a pool safe. While I think this woman failed to do her job and may be punished for it, it is important to question why your community pool has better safeguards than an experimental car.

    [0] https://youtu.be/4sFuULOY5ik

    • randycupertino 310 days ago
      I think the key difference is the backup driver was watching a video on her phone when the accident happened. I was a summer lifeguard on the ocean for many years (SOYA summer! Sit On Your Ass Summer), and we would have been fired if browsed our phones while on duty.
      • alextheparrot 310 days ago
        I’m in complete agreement with your assessment on that. If the processes I mentioned above weren’t in place and someone drowned while the lifeguard was watching a video or reading a magazine, they should be held to account. I’m remiss to completely remove individual agency from scenarios like this. The processes just help make those failure cases less accessible because you get fired before it happens.

        That’s really the fundamental point, these processes exist because those failure cases are understood, acknowledged, and chosen to be managed diligently.

        SOYA summer was a lot of fun, though an office job still qualifies for the acronym even if you don’t get a great tan and have a lot less fun, heh.

        • Hokusai 310 days ago
          > I think the key difference is the backup driver was watching a video on her phone when the accident happened.

          Blaming the individual would not solve the problem. The question that the parent comment tries to answer is "what do we do so the backup driver does not watch his phone?".

          That would save lives. To blame the individual and move on will kill more people in the future.

          • dathinab 310 days ago
            I think the real question is:

            Do self-driving cars which need a always very fast available backup driver make sense?

            • mobilefriendly 310 days ago
              This is clearly a development phase. 30-40,000 people a year die on US roads, almost all from driver error.
              • Amezarak 310 days ago
                It is entirely possible that self-driving vehicles will not be any better than human drivers, and they'll just commit different categories of errors. It may be that it really does just take general intelligence to drive a car, and that perfection is impossible in the current environment and infrastructure.

                I don't think "this is a clearly a development phase" means anything when there's no guarantee self-driving cars will actually reduce deaths. It may be that the way forward is simply more advanced driver assist technology that better accounts for human psychology, and not fully autonomous cars. All these sacrifices for a future of autonomous driving may simply be a waste.

                Personally, I don't think these cars should be on public roads until they get a lot better. We're just introducing a new class of accidents; human drivers generally make the same kinds of errors and other drivers can reason about what they're thinking. Computers are more likely to fail in (to humans) surprising and bizarre ways. What we have now is the worst of both worlds.

                As an aside, if we really wanted to do something, I suspect the easiest way to save thousands of lives a year right now would be to implement mandatory functionality on all smartphones to shut off the screen when the phone is moving faster than 5mph. This would inconvenience people and passengers would be annoyed, but there was, after all, a time before smartphones.

                • cutemonster 309 days ago
                  > shut off the screen when the phone is moving faster than 5mph

                  I like this idea

                  Maybe need to figure out how to avoid shutting down the passengers' phones?

                • dathinab 310 days ago
                  Sure, my answer to the question I stated would be:

                  Yes, but the legal entity behind the driving of the car needs to be hold legal liable. (i.e. the AI provider)

                  Hand over to driver can be required but the driver needs to have reasonable time to adapt to the situation (multiple seconds).

                  Only with this can we make sure that companies providing driving AIs give their best to make sure they don't kill.

                  Else they will have just pressure to improve it to a point where it happens rarely and then stop there because its not worth the development cost.

                  • robertlagrant 310 days ago
                    > Else they will have just pressure to improve it to a point where it happens rarely and then stop there because its not worth the development cost.

                    As ever, perfect is the enemy of good. Are there currently zero fatalities on the roads because cars are 100% safe? Or have they been developed to an acceptable standard of safety?

                    • unionpivo 310 days ago
                      Oh its never going to be perfect (imo). And agree with you that good solution now is better than perfect never.

                      But we need to set initiatives in a way that manufacturers will be improving over time. They won't do it out of goodness of their hart, and quite possible marketing and good PR will be more impactfull on sale than 0.5% safer AI

                      I have 0 trust that market itself will solve this issue.

                      • dathinab 310 days ago
                        We could give a grace period of some years until we apply strict laws.

                        We just would need to make it clear from the get to go that after that grace period the law will be strict even for cars sold before ;=)

                        • unionpivo 309 days ago
                          That could lead to situation where, cars that you bought, wont be useful couple of years after you bought them in case ai company doesn't deliver.

                          I have even less faith for politicians to not extend grace periods in face of organized backslash(probably paid and bought by companies themself), making them infinite.

                    • DarkWiiPlayer 310 days ago
                      > Hand over to driver can be required but the driver needs to have reasonable time to adapt to the situation (multiple seconds).

                      Of course. Otherwise you could just always hand over a few milliseconds before any impact and blame the driver.

                      • beambot 310 days ago
                        This is a solved problem in actuarial & insurance circles...
                  • robertlagrant 310 days ago
                    > The question that the parent comment tries to answer is "what do we do so the backup driver does not watch his phone?".

                    We should do the same thing we do to stop regular drivers watching their phones.

                    • tsimionescu 310 days ago
                      Normal drivers have to drive, so they can't watch their phone. Requiring a human to do nothing while being attentive is simply not realistic.
                      • emiliobumachar 310 days ago
                        > Normal drivers have to drive, so they can't watch their phone.

                        Despite being a huge legal and moral issue, a large minority of normal drivers can and do watch their phone while driving.

                        • randycupertino 310 days ago
                          > Requiring a human to do nothing while being attentive is simply not realistic.

                          Isn't this basic security guard job description? Fire lookout spotters, etc? It's totally realistic. Sit there, pay attention, and be ready to take action if needed.

                          • Volundr 310 days ago
                            As someone who spent years working as a security guard... No. At least not in the way your thinking sitting at a desk eyes constantly on the cameras. Depending on the site we are expected to check and log them on a given interval and generally keep them in our field of view, but no one is under the illusion that there's perfect attention there.

                            For higher security sites this is solved by having several rovers in constant communication and coordinatation with the (often multiple) people sitting by the cameras. So both the rovers and the desk are constantly doing not just sitting.

                            Fire watch is the same thing. Your not just up in your tower eyes constantly peeled on the forrest, ready to react in milliseconds.

                            • onetimemanytime 310 days ago
                              Security guards have more a split second leeway to react.
                            • tobyhinloopen 310 days ago
                              You’re not supposed to do nothing. You’re supposed to watch the road and ensure the safety of yourself, the car and the other road users.

                              I’m not saying it is realistic to expect the driver to be attentive the whole trip, but watching a video on a phone is just gross negligence.

                              Watching something while doing nothing is a job that has been around for a long time. If you’re employed to do that job, you cannot watch a video on your phone, especially when a failure kills someone. The whole reason you’re hired to watch a thing is to prevent that from happening.

                              Comparing it to the lifeguards discussions above: you wouldn’t allow phone usages as a lifeguard either.

                              • tsimionescu 309 days ago
                                Agreed - watching a video on your phone is gross negligence. But so is employing one person alone in the car to react in milliseconds to possible dangers.

                                And note that watching and ensuring are not doing something, they are precisely doing nothing. Most, if not all, human beings are not very good at paying attention while doing nothing which is what Uber is requiring of their test 'drivers'.

                              • u801e 310 days ago
                                This is the reason that self-diving cars that require human intervention is a flawed concept. We should be designing vehicles that we manually control, but have a computer take over when needed.
                                • andyjohnson0 310 days ago
                                  > This is the reason that self-diving cars that require human intervention is a flawed concept. We should be designing vehicles that we manually control, but have a computer take over when needed.

                                  This makes sense if the objective is to reduce fatalities. Unfortunately it makes no sense if the objective is to merely reduce the cost of operating commercial vehicles by eliminating the need to employ a driver - which is where the money is.

                                • toyg 310 days ago
                                  People used to be employed as lookouts on ships for days on end. Patrols have been a thing for as long as humanity had to deal with dangerous wild animals.

                                  The fact that we cannot countenance something like this in the current world is testament to the power our devices have on us.

                                  • derangedHorse 310 days ago
                                    I doubt any lookouts were good enough to spot a potential threat the second it came into one’s range of vision (which is what something like this requires)
                                    • tsimionescu 309 days ago
                                      Lookouts aren't expected to react in milliseconds. They also likely communicated pretty often with the rest of the crew. Patrols... patrol.

                                      Also, all of these jobs would be done in relatively short shifts.

                                      Note that I'm not saying that the scape gal wasn't grossly negligent in watching a video on her phone. I'm saying that Uber was also negligent in making their safety system just be 1 person sitting there, expected to react in milliseconds.

                                      • nradov 310 days ago
                                        Lookouts on ships typically don't stand watch for more than 4 hours at a time. Often they're rotated more frequently.
                                        • toyg 310 days ago
                                          The point is that it can be done (on and off) for extended periods, unlike what the parent comment stated.
                                      • gpm 310 days ago
                                        The crime here isn't failing to be attentive enough, it is actively choosing to direct your attention elsewhere.

                                        You don't accidentally start watching a video on your phone.

                                    • sandworm101 310 days ago
                                      >> What do we do so the backup driver does not watch his phone?

                                      You make the human drive the car. The robot can jump in and slam the brakes when the human makes a mistake. That is the safe option.

                                      But it just won't sell. Nobody here would buy a car that prevents the driver from making mistakes. Autodrive car that obeys speed limits while allowing driver facebook on phone: acceptable. Car that doesn't allow the human driver to speed or run red lights: market kryptonite.

                                      • nexuist 310 days ago
                                        Do you have any evidence for this that isn't just conjecture, though? I think there are millions of parents that would love to get a car that obeys traffic laws for their children. The peace of mind would be immense, and that's on top of the existing entries in the market that allow you to view live location and speed and even set preferences for radio volume and acceleration rate.

                                        > Nobody here would buy a car that prevents the driver from making mistakes.

                                        Almost every new car today comes with adaptive cruise control, autonomous lane-keeping, augmented backup cameras, lane-change and backup alarms, etc. I don't see why a better version wouldn't sell just as well.

                                        • sandworm101 310 days ago
                                          There has been market research on this going back decades. Setting aside all the latest tech: Would anyone in america buy a car that would not allow the driver to break the speed limit? That was proposed decades ago and could be done with a simple clockwork mechanism to limit the throttle once the car hit 70mph. People are fine with an optional adaptive cruise control because they can ignore it. They aren't OK with a system that actively disallows behavior.

                                          There was another interesting proposal: Lights/sirens that automatically turn on when the police/ambulance/firetruck breaks the speed limit. Again, no takers.

                                          • pandaman 309 days ago
                                            "Not breaking speed limit" and "driving by the rules" are different things. If you are passing on a two lane road without breaking speed limit then you are actually breaking the rules by creating a dangerous situation. This is why propositions to set governor to the maximum speed limit won't fly. However, people do want features like ESC, which can effectively limit your speed much lower than the posted speed limit if the road conditions do not allow higher speed. Same with collision avoidance system that do not allow to drive into obstacles and pedestrians, I don't think anybody opposes them. So I think more complex safety behaviors would have their market just as long as they actually improve safety and are not dangerous knee-jerk solutions in search of a problem.
                                          • derekp7 310 days ago
                                            And collision avoidance. Which is a highly desirable feature. I would also love to have a dashboard device that alerts me whenever I exceed the speed limit by some threshold. Practically any ticket I've gotten as an adult was due to inadvertently exceeding the speed limit (driving in a 45 zone, then hit a 30 zone for two blocks).
                                            • nexuist 310 days ago
                                              Actually, a bit of a gruesome idea I had was to look at NHTSA crash records and calculate the average probability of death at various speeds in my vehicle (Nissan Xterra). As you speed up and break the speed limit, a little % icon on the dashboard rises to indicate how likely you are to die if something goes wrong. I think the emotional impact of staring your fatality chances in the face as they steadily rise might encourage safer behavior for our monkey brains.
                                              • cutemonster 309 days ago
                                                Gruesome? I'd say possibly life saving :-)
                                              • sandworm101 310 days ago
                                                >> that alerts me whenever I exceed the speed limit by some threshold

                                                But would you buy a car that hits the brakes at the speed limit? Not an alert. An actual limiter that you cannot bypass.

                                                • nexuist 310 days ago
                                                  This is an unfair premise because it implies that breaking the speed limit is always unsafe. This is flat out not true; millions of drivers break the speed limit every day and have never or will never face the consequences. Out of various dangerous acts, speeding certainly counts as one, but it is not as fatal as, say, playing with firearms.

                                                  There are plenty of valid reasons to speed:

                                                  * (Most common) The actual speed limit is way too slow for what the road conditions are, and everyone would suffer if they followed it

                                                  * You are trying to overtake a truck and avoid their blind spot (I have done this; the less time spent next to a truck, the less anxiety you feel)

                                                  * An emergency vehicle is behind you and you need to speed up to overtake a car in the other lane so you can lane-change and make way for the vehicle (State v. Brown)

                                                  * Everyone around you is speeding; going slower is more dangerous because people need to lane change to get around you

                                                  * You are trying to make some space between some kind of maniac driver who you believe will soon lose control and hit you (I have done this to get away from drunk drivers)

                                                  * Your loved one is experiencing a medical emergency and you need to get to the hospital

                                                  * You are being chased by some kind of criminal or terrorist

                                                  * You are avoiding a natural disaster such as a rockslide, tornado, flood, or avalanche

                                                  Realistically, will you ever be driving away from a rockslide or sedan terrorist? Probably not, but with a regular car, you at least have options to exercise if you ever are in that spot; with a limiter those opportunities are gone.

                                                  In the case of a limiter, a mis-configured or broken speedometer or sensor can give false readings that severely inhibit your driving, even while driving, which could cause an accident if your vehicle slams the brakes without warning. It could also prevent you from using highways if your vehicle is not capable of accelerating past 40mph. This is the same argument against self driving cars; humans want control to keep themselves safe, not so they can be dangerous.

                                                  • cutemonster 309 days ago
                                                    > ... Everyone around you is speeding; going slower is more dangerous

                                                    Yes those things can happen, however the car can allow the driver to go say 15 km/h faster, doesn't need to slow down at +0.01 above the limits.

                                                    Some people frequently go 30 km too fast... On 30 km roads in areas with children

                                          • _AzMoo 310 days ago
                                            We should absolutely be blaming the individual in this case. They were negligent in their stated job role which led directly to the death of a bystander. We should also be finding fault with the processes and finding solutions for them, but this does not absolve the driver of their responsibility.
                                            • Hokusai 310 days ago
                                              > They were negligent in their stated job role

                                              This is not how labor laws work. The role description needs to be fair. A employer cannot just shift all the blame to the employee. The employer needs to take the needed actions and provide the needed equipment and procedures so the employee can do her task.

                                              But, let's see what the result of the trial is. I am not an expert and the trial will clarify this point.

                                              • woadwarrior01 310 days ago
                                                Indeed, the employers are very much liable for negligence by their employees and its scope is much wider than labour laws. This is called Vicarious liability[1] in common law.

                                                [1]: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vicarious_liability

                                                • pc86 310 days ago
                                                  I don't think anyone is arguing that Uber has no liability here, only that the driver does have liability.
                                                  • wonderwonder 310 days ago
                                                    Well to be fair, the the prosecutors office is arguing that.

                                                    "Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk decided in March 2019 that Uber itself had not committed a crime in Herzberg's death."

                                                    • pc86 310 days ago
                                                      I stand corrected, thank you
                                                • _AzMoo 310 days ago
                                                  I'm not saying the company should be able to shift the blame to the employee, I'm saying they're both at fault. Labour Law in Australia does in fact recognise this and individuals can be held criminally liable for negligence on the job. I understand that this happened in the United States, but my intention is not to predict the outcome of the case, but to make a statement about who should be held liable in a just system.
                                                  • dragonwriter 310 days ago
                                                    > This is not how labor laws work

                                                    Labor laws are irrelevant. They were grossly negligent in operating a vehicle, which is the domain of criminal, not labor, law.

                                                    Principal-agent aspects of criminal law may also provide liability for the employer, though apparently they haven't been charged. Which, to the extent they could be, is unfortunate because it is only employer liability, civil and/or criminal, that is likely to substantively effect the likelihood of recurrence, because while the individual is absolutely culpable, it's not the kind of behavior where individual criminal liability is likely to be an effective deterrent without better employer supervision, which won't happen unless she employer has a reason to pay for that cost.

                                                    • lhorie 310 days ago
                                                      The thing is that there are plenty of precedents for jobs that require staying alert behind the wheel of a motorized vehicle without supervision (e.g. taxi, bus, truck drivers). Whether the vehicle is equipped with safety/convenience technology is beside the point.
                                                      • user5994461 310 days ago
                                                        The taxi/bus isn't given a tablet with instructions to watch the tablet (monitoring the self driving), only to be accused later of not watching the road.
                                                        • lhorie 310 days ago
                                                          Are you saying this was the case here? Are you you familiar with the protocols used at the time or are you speculating?

                                                          I see e.g. cruise and waymo SDVs around SF with only one person on board. What of those?

                                                          My very layperson protocol would be "watch the road while the car is in motion, only use tablet when car is safely parked". My understanding is that SDVs store all the data it collects, so I see no reason to require operating a tablet while the vehicle is in motion. Correct me if I'm wrong.

                                                          • curryst 310 days ago
                                                            Unless Cruise has changed recently, they require a primary and backup person in the car, and the rules seemed strict. I remember they were super serious about it, iirc you weren't allowed to talk to either of the drivers after you put your seatbelt on (or maybe it was after the car was on?).

                                                            SF is also an easier place to be watching an SDV in the sense that there's more happening to keep your mind occupied (weird intersections, construction, people doing stupid things). It's a lot easier to lose focus when you're watching a car drive itself around deserted highways in the middle of the night.

                                                            • lhorie 310 days ago
                                                              > Unless Cruise has changed recently

                                                              I can't say much about what their actual protocols are supposed to be, I can only offer my personal anecdata. I do occasionally see cruise cars around the Japan Town area with only one person in the car. They often park at the safeway across geary. The waymo cars, I see them roaming around closer to downtown, also with single driver, though they don't seem to concentrate in any particular area that I can tell. I also occasionally see unbranded SDVs, sometimes w/ two people, sometimes w/ one. Not sure which company those are from.

                                                              > SF is also an easier place to be watching an SDV

                                                              Well, from a regulatory perspective, one shouldn't be able to get away with saying "well I was not in a crowded area to keep me attentive, that's why the accident happened". I'd even argue that if the job involves looking at a tablet while the car is motion, then being in a crowded area would make things _more_ dangerous.

                                                            • user5994461 310 days ago
                                                              Previous articles mentioned that the driver has some tablet device(s) to watch, to monitor what's happening with the AI.

                                                              The last PR piece seems to omit that. Next piece maybe we will find out the driver was watching hulu on their phone on their lap... while reclassifying objects on the AI tablet also on their lap.

                                                              • lhorie 310 days ago
                                                                Ok, but what I'm curious is whether the monitoring/classifying/whatever was done in real time with the vehicle in motion, or after the fact. Presumably one would be able to do a far better job at whatever they were doing when they are able to play back/slow down/pause different data channels from a trip at will?

                                                                Because if the status quo is to poke at tablets in moving vehicles, how is anyone ok w/ cruise/waymo/whatever cars driving around SF?

                                                                • toast0 310 days ago
                                                                  > how is anyone ok w/ cruise/waymo/whatever cars driving around SF?

                                                                  California DMV has shown a lot better oversight of self-driving than Arizona. They had deregistered several Uber owned vehicles in 2016 [1], and have some reasonably specific rules. It's much more OK in SF than AZ.

                                                                  [1] https://www.theregister.com/2016/12/22/uber_selfdriving_cars...

                                                      • onetimemanytime 310 days ago
                                                        >>We should absolutely be blaming the individual in this case.

                                                        Extreme case: Your employer tells you to stay alert in a super-boring job for 8 straight hours or else a person can die or whatever. But that may be an impossibility due to how our brain works.

                                                        I'd like to know how many hours was he sitting there and how often did he have to intervene that day /week /month. Uber, maybe, should have had another one checking now and then on drivers. Say one for 10 drivers...

                                                        • pc86 310 days ago
                                                          If she had fallen asleep or something I would be inclined to agree with you, but she was on her phone while she was supposed to be "driving." Boring or not it seems pretty obvious that you shouldn't be on your phone when you're in charge of a moving vehicle.
                                                          • crazygringo 310 days ago
                                                            If by "how our brain works" you mean our biological response times or alertness then sure.

                                                            But if you mean watching a TV show to distract themselves then not in a million years.

                                                            Uber's training or setup may well prove to be negligent... but this employee took the active, conscious step of watching a TV show on her phone when her entire job was to supervise the car's driving and safety of others.

                                                            If that's not criminal negligence, I really don't know what is.

                                                            • Cd00d 310 days ago
                                                              Recognition of human capabilities in attention in repetitive tasks is important. As an earlier commenter said, lifeguards are limited to 30 minute intervals in their experience. I think baggage screeners with TSA (this is not an endorsement or attack on 'security theater', but an acknowledgement of how they address this issue) have similar time limitations due to focus drop off.

                                                              I think the TSA also keeps scanners on their toes by digitally placing contraband in the bag pictures at various intervals to make sure the scanner is able to stay engaged (and maybe to get some metrics on hit/miss rates). Maybe these supervised self driving cars need to project a deer jumping into the road and log the driver's response or something.

                                                              • dependenttypes 310 days ago
                                                                If she could not do the job then she should have resigned.

                                                                Edit: there was another post by [redacted] but it disappeared, it does not even show as deleted, weird.

                                                                It said: "This isn't some ride along in a consumer grade EV. They were gathering data to program the car with. The emergency braking systems were not active. The person that was supposed to be monitoring the vehicle knew this."

                                                                • dang 310 days ago
                                                                  When a commenter deletes their comment, it disappears.

                                                                  It would probably be more respectful not to copy what they posted along with their username. Actually, I think we'd better redact the username from your quote. People sometimes have important personal reasons for deleting things. The odds aren't high that it matters but the impact could be high if it did.

                                                                  • dependenttypes 310 days ago
                                                                    It would be probably be more respectful if you would not mess with my posts, now even I do not know who made said comment. Guess I should start signing my posts and keep backups of them.

                                                                    People sometimes have important personal reasons for deleting things but this does not mean anything. It is not as if "x posted y on twitter and deleted it afterwards" or "the page was edited/deleted, here is an archive.org link" is uncommon on HN, nor it is as if a stalker would not be able to scrap HN posts of someone instantly as they were posted.

                                                                    > it disappears.

                                                                    In my experience they show as [deleted] but I guess this is only for posts that have replies.

                                                                    • dang 310 days ago
                                                                      Obviously it's rare for us to intervene in a comment that way (and never without letting them know), but in this case it was the lesser evil compared to compromising another user's privacy. Copying what they posted along with their username is basically overriding their deletion, and that was their choice to make, not yours.

                                                                      I'm sure it wasn't that big a deal and I'm sure your intentions were good, but I'm also pretty sure most HN users would want us to protect them in this way, if only for the rare occasion on which it actually is a big deal.

                                                                      • Wowfunhappy 310 days ago
                                                                        > In my experience they show as [deleted] but I guess this is only for posts that have replies.

                                                                        Kind of. Technically, posts that have replies can't be deleted, so what sometimes happens is the poster edits their post and replaces all the text with "[deleted]".

                                                                        • krapp 310 days ago
                                                                          >Technically, posts that have replies can't be deleted, so what sometimes happens is the poster edits their post and replaces all the text with "[deleted]".

                                                                          Which should also be prohibited, because it's just as destructive. You shouldn't be able to edit a post with replies either.

                                                                          • Wowfunhappy 310 days ago
                                                                            I don't know, if my posts were locked after the first reply, my contributions to HN would be definitively worse. I almost always find confusing typos and grammar errors, and things that just could have been stated better, after initially posting a comment, and I use edits to fix those problems.

                                                                            Yes, ideally I would just do more revising before posting a comment the first time, but I don't seem to work that way.

                                                                            I think the two-hour window is a good compromise, and if anything I really wish it was longer. Yes it has downsides, but I really think they're outweighed by the good.

                                                              • Tempest1981 310 days ago
                                                                > a manager actively observing for engagement

                                                                Maybe this is the key.

                                                                • watwut 310 days ago
                                                                  The other ones are necessary too. The issue is that people will loose attention - it is not possible for humans to not loose attention when nothing is happening for long time. And even when things are happening, it is not possible for humans to keep attention all the time.

                                                                  The control is one thing, but manager can prevent you to look at phone and manager is creating interruption from monotony. The rotation is necessary to deal with human hardware which requires breaks (and moving car requries faster responses then drowning person).

                                                                  The overlapping zones deal with fact that breaks and manager being present is still not enough.

                                                                  • hombre_fatal 310 days ago
                                                                    > it is not possible for humans to not loose attention when nothing is happening for long time.

                                                                    I really don't understand this assertion.

                                                                    Having to babysit auto-driving cars in their development phase is well within the realm of what humans are capable of.

                                                                    The driver booted Netflix, navigated to an episode, and watched in on their phone for the same reason anyone would do it at work: not because they were driven to a boredom so intense that it was the only way to get a grip but because they simply thought "what harm could it do?"

                                                                    These replies acting like a slightly boring job is doomed to this outcome remind me of those ridiculous articles that stereotype millennials as 30yo-children so spoiled that they're unwilling to do the simplest of jobs. "Millennials refuse to be trash collectors and don't understand how someone could do it. 'Humans aren't made to pick up trash,' John, 32 years old, told our newscaster. 'Else we would have tongs for hands! I don't even think it's possible.'"

                                                                    • curryst 310 days ago
                                                                      So you think that humans can sit there and simply watch, 8 hours a day for the rest of their lives, and not lose focus ever? I have yet to encounter a system built on that premise that wasn't woefully ineffective.

                                                                      Which is not to mention that these workers have ridiculously weak motivations. They create nothing, spending hundreds of hours merely testing out someone else's work. They exist in a field with very little upward mobility, since they are effectively the only non-skilled labor at their companies. Even if there were upward mobility, they work in a field where their job is to help eliminate their job. The only thing offsetting that is that the pay is slightly better than equivalent options.

                                                                      I can understand why people lose attention driving these cars around.

                                                                      • watwut 310 days ago
                                                                        > Having to babysit auto-driving cars in their development phase is well within the realm of what humans are capable of.

                                                                        The argument is that no, it is not, even if you never open netflix you will loose attention. Rhat does not make Netflix ok. But this driver having netflix open does not imply that people without netflix wont loose attention. They will.

                                                                        Your second paragraph is both strawman and nonsense. Before millenials, people were not able to hold attention while nothing was happening. Which is why train drivers have protocols to prevent loss of attention and so do lifeguards.

                                                                        The whole "if you admit common human limitation out loud yoi are weak and spoiled is either arrogance or manipulative argument.

                                                                      • randycupertino 310 days ago
                                                                        > it is not possible for humans to not loose attention when nothing is happening for long time. And even when things are happening, it is not possible for humans to keep attention all the time.

                                                                        But they could watch the road instead of watching their phones. It would be a pretty simple fix- have the backup driver keep their phone in the back of the car. I've had jobs where we had to lock our phones in lockers at the start of our shift, it's not uncommon.

                                                                        Also, disagree that moving car requires faster responses than drowning person- kids often gently slip under the water in an instant and it's generally quiet and fast, never a big splash or dog paddling "help me!" commotion like in the movies. And longer without oxygen to the brain can lead to more permanent brain death, so I'd say both activities require equal vigilance.

                                                                        • watwut 310 days ago
                                                                          > ut they could watch the road instead of watching their phones. It would be a pretty simple fix- have the backup driver keep their phone in the back of the car.

                                                                          Sure, but that is just baindaid for one instance of problem. Something that allows management to pretend they dealt with it, while not actually trying to solve the problem. Typical human will likely start daydream without the phone or otherwise loose attention.

                                                                          > Also, disagree that moving car requires faster responses than drowning person- kids often gently slip under the water in an instant and it's generally quiet and fast, never a big splash or dog paddling "help me!" commotion like in the movies. And longer without oxygen to the brain can lead to more permanent brain death, so I'd say both activities require equal vigilance.

                                                                          That does not require split second attention and quick reflexive reaction. The permanent brain damage does not happen because kid was under water for 5 seconds, car crash can happen under one second.

                                                                    • crazygringo 310 days ago
                                                                      > "what do we do so the backup driver does not watch his phone?"

                                                                      I mean, a first step is to hold the driver criminally negligent if they get into an accident. Which already happens. That's what legal punishment is for -- to deter extremely dangerous/harmful/etc. behaviors.

                                                                      But because people often think "it'll never happen to me", that's why companies generally have supervision and spot checks of employees, to try to catch bad behavior and reprimand/fire them first, before it results in damage/death.

                                                                      Which, if I were Uber, would probably mean installing fish-eye cameras in the corner of each vehicle that would regularly be spot-checked to see if backup drivers were, in fact, not doing their job.

                                                                      This isn't a particularly difficult problem. And I don't think privacy is a particular issue here.

                                                                      • dragonwriter 310 days ago
                                                                        > Blaming the individual would not solve the problem.

                                                                        Punishing the culpable lapse by the individual is necessary but not sufficient. It should have been monitored and supervises by the employer, and failing that is also a culpable lapse which should be punished.

                                                                        • ayewo 310 days ago
                                                                          To your question: The question that the parent comment tries to answer is "what do we do so the backup driver does not watch his phone?".

                                                                          This is a solved problem: you fit the experimental car with an interior camera aimed at the driver. If the backup driver is observed to be distracted by the interior camera, the car can sound a warning for the driver to be alert and if they ignore the warning, the car's hazard lights would come on and it would be slowly brought to a halt.

                                                                          • hartator 310 days ago
                                                                            So an AI to watch the driver that watch the AI drives?
                                                                            • ayewo 310 days ago
                                                                              Such an internal camera system doesn't need to be AI powered. You could achieve the detection using a depth camera that emits active infrared (IR) stereo. Stated differently, a depth camera uses IR and visible light to see the driver's face.
                                                                          • pc86 310 days ago
                                                                            > what do we do so the backup driver does not watch his phone?

                                                                            You send this person to prison for negligent homicide, which I think she is guilty of, and remind backup drivers in the future they're still responsible for the safe operation of the vehicle.

                                                                            To imply that the individual has no culpability for watching a video on her phone while the vehicle she's in charge of runs down and kills a homeless woman is insanity.

                                                                          • hugh-avherald 310 days ago
                                                                            Indeed. But to me the distinction between your experience and the driver's is that you were supervised and compliance was checked. If no-one was (at least occasionally) making sure the driver was always focusing on the road ahead, it was inevitable that the driver would not think the rule was that serious, and lapses were bound to occur.
                                                                            • kstenerud 310 days ago
                                                                              The point is to not place someone in a position where their attention would likely wander (for example not having active shifts over 30 minutes in the case of a lifeguard).

                                                                              Safety is about proactively defending against human nature, not blaming people after the fact.

                                                                              • tobyhinloopen 310 days ago
                                                                                Again, it’s not the attention wandering away. It’s watching a video while driving a 2000kg steel vehicle
                                                                              • dathinab 310 days ago
                                                                                But would that really have made a difference if that person would have starred straight forward instead.

                                                                                If you don't expect something to happen reaction times can be really slow.

                                                                                Which is also how it differs from the lifeguard job, there you always expect that from time to time something will happen, but as far as I can tell many people would not expect this when they use a self-driving car. Because you know, the car is already meant to be able to handle this. Or at least this is how many people think about self driving cars I think.

                                                                                • kevinmchugh 310 days ago
                                                                                  Hopefully people hired to be the safety check on self-driving cars are being trained that the cars are not perfect and require human oversight.
                                                                              • schaefer 310 days ago
                                                                                >To make sure those interventions happen when needed, pools implement processes to better manage the risk.

                                                                                Thankfully, this is already happening in the self driving space as well! At least as far as research and development efforts are concerned.

                                                                                I used to work right next to another self-driving tech company: Aptiva in Las Vegas. Several times a day, I would see their R&D cars launching from headquarters, and there were always two backup drivers. In addition, the backup driver in the passenger seat always has a clip board up and was actively taking notes. A “two man rule“ is common practice in critical, high risk activities.

                                                                                I’ve known the details of Uber’s murder of Elaine Herzberg for a long time. I read the original police reports early on[1]. And I don’t take that fatality lightly.

                                                                                Just the same, even on a bicycle, I always felt safe sharing the road with Aptiva R&D cars because of their two man rule, and constantly attentive drivers.

                                                                                [1] https://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/AccidentReports/Reports/...

                                                                                • f154hfds 310 days ago
                                                                                  Not to be pedantic but the indictment is 'Negligent Homicide'. I believe this is involuntary manslaughter. The reason I bring this up is because I see people misuse the term 'murder' on HN often, leading their readers to surmise the possibility of intent when that is not at all the charge.
                                                                                • lifeisstillgood 310 days ago
                                                                                  One technical "solution" to this might be to have the computer ask (voice) questions on the road - such as are we approaching a right or left bend, or was that a red car we overtook. These could measure attention to the road and reaction speed. It is also quite easy to see that being put in place for normal driven vehicles - one could imagine a insurance requirement to prove attention of the driver during the journey.

                                                                                  It will of course totally ruin the illusion of being driven smoothly by robot but I think that should be canned asap.

                                                                                  but I agree - the company is also liable for failing to have processes to stop the inattentive behaviour. IF you were on duty watching your phone, and no manager spotted this, or took away the phone they are just as liable.

                                                                                  • DharmaPolice 310 days ago
                                                                                    I think the technical solution has merit. It doesn't need to be voice, presumably you could rig something up on a steering wheel with buttons to press to record every time they go past an intersection or something. Something to force them to watch the road and keep their hands in the right area. You're right though, that does dent the image of unattended self-driving but we've already demonstrated that isn't what this was.

                                                                                    People are condemning this person for being on their phone (and fair enough), but if I am sitting in a comfortable vehicle with nothing to do / read then I will fall asleep soon enough. I think this is quite common.

                                                                                  • Jugurtha 310 days ago
                                                                                    Not a lifeguard, but I pull several people from the water during the summer. I once pulled someone to the shore in Tunisia, a few feet from where the lifeguard was standing. He neither noticed the person being in trouble, nor the rescue. A couple of elderly Germans saw us arrive and hurried to alert him but he had his attention directed elsewhere and didn't even notice them talking to him. They were outraged in an adorable elderly manner.
                                                                                    • caf 310 days ago
                                                                                      I assume this is the reason that casino croupiers are rotated frequently off and on the floor as well, although there of course it is about protecting profits rather than safety.
                                                                                      • jdeibele 310 days ago
                                                                                        Never worked as a lifeguard but have 3 kids who like to swim and who have survived to be teenagers.

                                                                                        The lifeguards at our local pools rotate about every 10 minutes. It seems like changing position and also that you have some interaction would be helpful to staying focused.

                                                                                        It's hard to replicate that in a car but perhaps something that was asking for data - "What's the speed right now? Are there any fire hydrants in sight?" - that could be flagged if contradicted could weed out drivers who are watching a movie or nodding off.

                                                                                        • Cthulhu_ 310 days ago
                                                                                          But don't lifeguards often work in teams of at least two, frequently (e.g. every 15 - 30 minutes) alternating simply because of that limited attention span?
                                                                                          • fredophile 310 days ago
                                                                                            They do. That's why the OP mentioned rotations and redundancy. Uber could easily put two people in the vehicle and have them swap seats every 20-30 minutes. The person in the driver seat would be responsible for watching the road and reacting while the person in the passenger seat supervises.
                                                                                            • kohtatsu 310 days ago
                                                                                              It's okay self-driving cars aren't yet single seater.
                                                                                            • wutbrodo 310 days ago
                                                                                              Yup, I've had experience with safety drivers in autonomous vehicles that are extremely professional and that I feel very safe with. After seeing the Uber video, the first red flag for me was the fact that she was alone; the second was (obviously) the fact that she was watching a video on her phone, which means either she was being criminally negligent (if she had been on-shift for a short period of time) or Uber was (if she had a long, isolated shift).
                                                                                              • calyth2018 310 days ago
                                                                                                > it is important to question why your community pool has better safeguards than an experimental car.

                                                                                                Because the people responsible for the experimental car doesn't give a shit and tries to wash themselves of their responsibilty by placing all the blame on the safety driver.

                                                                                                Don't get me wrong, she's responsible, but not nearly 100%.

                                                                                                • 1-more 310 days ago
                                                                                                  Yeah her job was basically to do a quick time event lasting several hours. Absolutely setup to fail
                                                                                                • shajznnckfke 310 days ago
                                                                                                  I think it’s useful not to label this person’s job “driver”, but instead “fall guy”. Their job is to sit around all day doing absolutely nothing. But in the rare event where the car fails, they need to suddenly become alert and fix it, or take the blame for the machine’s failure. I think it’s less accurate to describe this transaction as a form of labor, but instead as an indemnity, an assumption of liability, paid for via a wage.

                                                                                                  For train conductors with a similar challenge, a solution has been invented requiring them to pass various visual attention challenges that detect if they aren’t alert. Such systems weren’t present here. The system wasn’t designed to work - it was designed to protect Uber by shifting the blame for failure.

                                                                                                  • Aeolun 310 days ago
                                                                                                    It is hard to imagine they weren’t aware that their job involved doing nothing (but pay attention to the road).

                                                                                                    I’d be inclined to give them a pass if they were looking at the road and just inattentive (because that’s expected, like you say), but I find it hard to sympathize with someone watching a show on their phone, explicitly ignoring their one job.

                                                                                                    • clairity 310 days ago
                                                                                                      that's the fundamental attribution error again, attributing poor judgement/negligence to the driver, who's the visible actor, rather than the inherent systemic flaws designed by other unseen actors who hold greater responsibility.
                                                                                                      • ALittleLight 310 days ago
                                                                                                        It's an error to attribute negligence to the safety driver of an experimental car who is watching a video rather than watching the road?

                                                                                                        Obviously the system should improve to make errors less likely, but that doesn't absolve anyone of guilt in my view.

                                                                                                        • infogulch 310 days ago
                                                                                                          We can discuss morality endlessly. We have (collectively) agreed to use the law to assign guilt and mete judgement -- this the court case will bear out eventually. What's left is the problem itself abstracted from the particulars of this case. And the best approach to solving this kind of problem, as evidenced by the aviation industry's miraculous safety record, is to consider the concept of assigning blame as out of scope because it shouldn't be the basis for our safety precautions. In this context, blame is something that distracts you from the real cause and can prevent you from looking more closely. Blame is a kind of 'bottom' argument which in practice is wielded to dismiss alternative perspectives and refuse to integrate their ideas.
                                                                                                          • clairity 310 days ago
                                                                                                            that's a good point. i'd add that even in the legal system, assigning blame is highly problematic because decisions are overwhelmingly pressured into being purely binary findings, whereas blame is nearly always shared by multiple entities. lawsuits would be much better if the "win-lose" dichotomy was entirely abolished in all its forms.

                                                                                                            in this case, the backup driver should shoulder some blame, but not the majority of it, and commensurately, should not face any of the harsh penalties associated with manslaughter.

                                                                                                          • LoSboccacc 310 days ago
                                                                                                            air lines have reached their current safety precisely because they consider the whole system as a whole and not just focus on the error.

                                                                                                            the wet bags behind the autopilot get bored, distracted, complacent, ill or reckless due a moltitude of factors some of which outside their control

                                                                                                            it is well known at this point the human modes of failure, and that there was basically no mitigation is a reasonability of the system designer

                                                                                                            • PJDK 310 days ago
                                                                                                              But holding individuals accountable for their actions.

                                                                                                              A better system would have spotted this person was watching their phone not the road, but it would still have held them accountable and (at minimum) fired them!

                                                                                                              • kevinmchugh 310 days ago
                                                                                                                This flaw is perfectly predictable, given other experience in industrial safety, so why was the better system not built?
                                                                                                                • PJDK 310 days ago
                                                                                                                  A totally fair point, Uber needs to be held to account for their systemic failings.

                                                                                                                  That doesn't mean that an employee being clearly negligent doesn't also need to be held accountable.

                                                                                                                  Them being held accountable is one part of a good system.

                                                                                                          • petra 310 days ago
                                                                                                            I think that might have passed if he only listened to the radio, a good enough way to relieve boredom. But streaming video ? That's a punishable offense while driving.

                                                                                                            Also, many people work at really boring jobs. If serious errors happens while you watch netflix, you'll get fired, for sure.

                                                                                                            But again, sometimes listening to music is permissable.

                                                                                                            • dontcarethrow2 310 days ago
                                                                                                              So how did this worker get through their screening/interview process? When hiring for this job which criteria did they focus on? Why even allow the driver to carry their screen around? Massive failure, I think there is too much FSD coolaid in the valley springs. I am somewhat surprised we had the power to stop/pause them after this reported unfortunate event. Anyone working on FSD today should focus entirely on mass transit vehicles mkay tnx
                                                                                                            • baddox 310 days ago
                                                                                                              Would you say the same thing for a chauffeur or truck driver who killed someone because they were using their phone while driving?
                                                                                                              • liability 310 days ago
                                                                                                                That somebody driving a truck or car in the normal way is doing more work than a person supervising a self driving car is the whole point of self-driving cars. They take all of the activity out of driving, but none of the tedium.

                                                                                                                I don't think it's realistic to expect people to function well under those conditions.

                                                                                                                • abduhl 310 days ago
                                                                                                                  When some people learn to drive they can take courses with instructors who sit in the passenger seat and have a brake pedal. When the student driver runs over and kills a pedestrian while the instructor is on their phone, is it the instructor or the student who should face liability? Why not both?
                                                                                                                  • lkdsajflkfdsjg 310 days ago
                                                                                                                    I'm fairly sure the instructor is at least partly liable.
                                                                                                                    • Ichthypresbyter 310 days ago
                                                                                                                      In England certainly the person supervising a learner driver is subject to the same laws about alcohol, mobile phone use, etc as someone actually driving- and can be convicted on a charge of aiding and abetting any crime the learner driver commits. This is the case regardless of whether they are a professional driving instructor with their own brake pedal, or a parent supervising their child driving the family car.
                                                                                                                      • glaberficken 310 days ago
                                                                                                                        In Portugal there is an interesting law regarding this: The instructor/examiner is always liable for an accident during driving lessons/exams, except if the accident resulted from an action where the learner disobeyed a direct order by the instructor. In that case the learner takes responsibility.
                                                                                                                  • clairity 310 days ago
                                                                                                                    no, because the system is not adversarial in that case, even though the actions of the driver, and the potential tragic results, might be similar.
                                                                                                                  • robertlagrant 310 days ago
                                                                                                                    Saying it's an attribution error is circular. It's a conclusion, not a premise.

                                                                                                                    And I think it's wrong. If my car is on cruise control, that doesn't mean I can stop worrying about my speed. You can't always just blame the company because it's the bigger entity.

                                                                                                                    • asdfasgasdgasdg 310 days ago
                                                                                                                      I think we can all agree that many murderers end up committing their crimes partly because of a system that gives rise to poverty and the knock on effects of poverty on humans. However, I think most folks also agree that incarceration is an important factor in discouraging the commission of more murders. Not everyone does but even the most lenient countries tend not to let the perp off scott free.

                                                                                                                      Which is all to say that "the system made me do it" really doesn't fly as an excuse for felonious behavior.

                                                                                                                      • FeepingCreature 310 days ago
                                                                                                                        If deterrence didn't work, prison would be pointless cruelty. Paying sustained attention while nothing happens for hours is simply not something people are generally suited for. You can't deterrence them into it.
                                                                                                                        • clairity 310 days ago
                                                                                                                          sure, but that extreme isn't helpful just as making the FAE isn't helpful, since, as others have astutely pointed out, the system was designed, whether through negligence, malevolence or other intentions, to put the driver in a (systemic) no-win situation.

                                                                                                                          for instance, in the 737 max crashes, the pilots made errors, but the principal blame lies with boeing and their egregious systemic design flaws.

                                                                                                                      • mindslight 310 days ago
                                                                                                                        Stepping back, I also find it hard to sympathize with someone watching a show on their phone. But there are two parties to this crime, and only one of them is being charged. Uber is responsible for creating this situation - I doubt this "backup driver" watches videos while driving her own car - yet has managed to escape liability. Hence why it's appropriate to describe her as a "fall gal".
                                                                                                                        • goodluckchuck 310 days ago
                                                                                                                          Yeah, the problem isn’t that they weren’t paying attention, or that they weren’t even trying, but that they where intentionally NOT paying attention.

                                                                                                                          That said, I don’t think this gets Uber off the hook. If I were on a jury, I’d likely say Uber was guilty of manslaughter (barring a real look at the evidence).

                                                                                                                          • akira2501 310 days ago
                                                                                                                            > That said, I don’t think this gets Uber off the hook

                                                                                                                            There is exceptional negligence on their part. The fact that vehicle was just blithely travelling the posted speed limit, even at night, even though the speed violated it's assured clear ahead ability, is a damning point. The vehicle will operate unsafely in it's default configuration.

                                                                                                                            • rdlecler1 310 days ago
                                                                                                                              And for that reason you have a driver there who should have taken over.
                                                                                                                              • modo_mario 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                Did this person know he should have taken over when the car was respecting the speedlimit but still going faster than it should have been going? I go the speedlimit at night as well. But here in Belgium where there's so much street-lighting it might as well be day

                                                                                                                                How much slower was the car supposed to go for it's sensors and was it all the guys responsibility even if he knew Uber apparently disabled the auto-braking due to issues and didn't pause roadtests?

                                                                                                                                • goodluckchuck 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                  > Did this person know he should have taken over when the car was respecting the speedlimit but still going faster than it should have been going?

                                                                                                                                  Yeah, and how was the driver even supposed to know how fast the car should have been driving? I know how fast I should driving because I know how far I can see, but the car had LIDAR / Radar / night vision / etc. If the speed limit is 45MPH and the car is going 45MPH, what reason did the driver have to think that the car couldn't see? Either the driver can rely on the car to "see" or they can't.

                                                                                                                            • PopeDotNinja 310 days ago
                                                                                                                              Honestly if I’d been given the job of babysitting a self driving car, the same thing could have easily happened to me. I’d get bored out of my mind and unintentionally pull out my phone & start browsing Reddit before I caught myself. It’s a shit, soul sucking job to actively do nothing.
                                                                                                                              • misja111 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                Let's say you were working as a lifeguard at a swimming pool. Would you also unintentionally pull out your phone after a couple of hours?

                                                                                                                                If you did and someone drowned in the mean while, there would be no debate about who was liable.

                                                                                                                                • watwut 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                  Through, lifeguards at a swimming pool in are typically not expected to be attentive for hours. They rotate and switch.
                                                                                                                                  • underwater 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                    That's the difference between a system designed to keep people alive and a system designed to do the least possible work to avoid liability.
                                                                                                                                    • tobyhinloopen 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                      Even if they’re not, you wouldn’t allow them watching a video on their phone
                                                                                                                                      • TeMPOraL 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                        And they're not allowed, and (as other commenters say elsewhere in the thread) there's another person on the floor whose job is to ensure lifeguards' attention doesn't drift off. That's how you design safe systems: defense in depth.
                                                                                                                                  • de_watcher 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                    I know that cars is the most probable cause of sudden death/injury so I wouldn't do that. How can you 'unintentionally' pull out a phone?

                                                                                                                                    I'd probably be looking at the road all the time, but just freeze at that moment where I'd need to take over.

                                                                                                                                    • ardy42 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                      > How can you 'unintentionally' pull out a phone?

                                                                                                                                      Probably more like "absent mindedly" pull out a phone.

                                                                                                                                      • PopeDotNinja 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                        Absent mindedly is closer. Whatever you call reaching for something out of habit with thinking about it.
                                                                                                                                  • 60secz 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                    You can listen to audiobooks -- if your job is to be a backup driver keep your eyes on the road.
                                                                                                                                    • Erlich_Bachman 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                      But you did not work there. There are people who would very easily do this job. If she knew she couldn't concentrate, she shouldn't have taken the job and the risks involved.
                                                                                                                                      • kevinmchugh 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                        Employees taking jobs they're unqualified for is a known problem. Reasons might include ignorance, hubris, financial need, greed. Employers need oversight systems to ensure employees are performing their jobs adequately, especially in safety critical roles.
                                                                                                                                • hinkley 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                  We know that you can pay someone as much as you want but you can’t get them to be vigilant for a low probability event. Except, as you say, by giving them some continuous skin in the game, even if it’s illusory.

                                                                                                                                  This person was being paid to pay attention, which is hard enough to get right. What happens when the person owns the car, and is just commuting? And there are millions of them, not just one person?

                                                                                                                                  Mayhem, if it’s a variant on this system instead of something much more sophisticated.

                                                                                                                                  • Erlich_Bachman 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                    > you can’t get them to be vigilant for a low probability event.

                                                                                                                                    How about starting by simply removing their phone? Isn't that easy? The driver was looking at her phone at the time when she was supposed to be looking at the road. This is a simple violation. The phone should have been banned and the driver fired after a first violation.

                                                                                                                                    I am pretty sure that while what you say might be hard to do for some people, there are individuals out there for whom sitting and looking at the road for hours would not be such a big problem. If she couldn't handle the job, she shouldn't have worked there.

                                                                                                                                    • thedrbrian 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                      > I am pretty sure that while what you say might be hard to do for some people, there are individuals out there for whom sitting and looking at the road for hours would not be such a big problem

                                                                                                                                      Those people are known as drivers and they’re doing more than just looking at the road. The driving/feedback from the controls is keeping them engaged.

                                                                                                                                      • gambiting 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                        That's all fine, but we also have decades of experience designing systems for exactly this - they are called train drivers. Driving a train can be the most boring job in the universe, in ways that driving a truck isn't - there is very little feedback from the controls, you can be going for hours in a straight line without any need for input or change of speed - so locomotive controls are designed to require constant positive input to keep the driver engaged. This should be the same - the system should require the backup driver to keep confirming/selecting something on the dash, even if it's inconsequential to the operation of the system.
                                                                                                                                      • ocbyc 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                        I believe it was "his" phone at the time.
                                                                                                                                    • zkms 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                      > I think it’s useful not to label this person’s job “driver”, but instead “fall guy”.

                                                                                                                                      Or "sacrificial part" -- designed to break first to protect the rest of the system. The NTSB report (https://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/AccidentReports/Reports/...) is an interesting read, by the way.

                                                                                                                                      • TeMPOraL 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                        Corporate equivalent of ablative armor then?
                                                                                                                                      • AlexandrB 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                        This is exactly right, and probably the way that liability will shake out with self-driving vehicles in general since it's in the manufacturer's best interest for it to be that way.

                                                                                                                                        "Here's your self-driving car with a 20 page EULA/ToS. Oh, but if it's in self-driving mode and something goes wrong it's not our fault, you must respond (within seconds) and fix it yourself."

                                                                                                                                        • derwiki 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                          Their job is definitely not to sit around and do nothing. Self-driving cars regularly disengage from autonomy (e.g. emergency vehicle, construction zone, erratic bicyclist) and the safety driver needs to be ready at all times. Safety drivers also undergo extensive training around this.
                                                                                                                                          • shajznnckfke 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                            I believe the normal behavior of self-driving cars in these situations is for the car to brake to avoid hitting the obstacle, so the safety driver has ample time to take over and navigate the situation. Didn’t Uber disable the auto-braking because it was oversensitive, choosing not to pause road tests until that issue was fixed?
                                                                                                                                            • sokoloff 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                              Uber disabled the OEM (Volvo) auto-braking but not the Uber braking algorithms. IMO, that’s largely a red herring as they could have equally well chosen to base their platform on a car that didn’t originally have a factory auto-braking system.
                                                                                                                                          • Cthulhu_ 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                            No it is not; there is no legislation in place that shifts the burden onto technology. The technology is assistive, and the driver is the end responsible.

                                                                                                                                            Would you blame an airplane's autopilot if it crashes? We still have two pilots even though 99% of the time the thing is on autopilot.

                                                                                                                                            She's a test driver, she did not pay attention, and she killed someone. At best, her employer should help and compensate her, given how it was a workplace, on-the-clock accident.

                                                                                                                                            • smnrchrds 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                              > Would you blame an airplane's autopilot if it crashes?

                                                                                                                                              If the plane crashed due to an autopilot error, yes, absolutely.

                                                                                                                                            • _jal 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                              This is exactly right.

                                                                                                                                              This job is a wage against a (very nasty) lottery ticket, to sit there to absorb the legal fallout for decisions made far away.

                                                                                                                                            • slg 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                              >Uber made a series of development decisions that contributed to the crash’s cause, the NTSB said...Uber deactivated the automatic emergency braking systems in the Volvo XC90 vehicle and precluded the use of immediate emergency braking, relying instead on the back-up driver.

                                                                                                                                              If the driver committed homicide, it sure sounds like Uber is also guilty of homicide.

                                                                                                                                              • choppaface 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                Not just the Volvo system, but Uber had tuned the object detector to ignore the sparse lidar returns that the car saw 6 seconds before impact. Meyhofer, the head of ATG, fought to tune the car that way because trees cause similar sparse returns and the car had been stopping for trees while testing. The pressure to tune was there because of an impending demo with Uber CEO Dara and Meyhofer stood to gain tens of millions of dollars from the demo. It’s not just homicide but Uber also defrauded their safety drivers.
                                                                                                                                                • bbotond 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                  Eerily similar to how the Challenger tragedy happened
                                                                                                                                                • clusterfish 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                  Deactivating this optional feature is somehow worse than buying a car without such feature in the first place? The latter is neither illegal nor immoral.

                                                                                                                                                  The safety driver had an actual job to do, he wasn't there "instead" of automatic emergency braking - which is not certified for driverless operation btw. But he was distracted with a phone instead of looking at the road.

                                                                                                                                                  The halo effect here is unreal.

                                                                                                                                                  • bb611 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                    The American legal system places much more emphasis on acts you may have committed than omissions, and tends to avoid compelling action.

                                                                                                                                                    So yes, in an American court, disabling a proven safety feature is significantly worse than simply purchasing a vehicle without the feature.

                                                                                                                                                    The safety driver failed at their job, but the NTSB clearly lays significant blame for that failure on Uber, who should know well that humans are poorly suited to monitoring automated systems, and committed acts and omissions that increased the likelihood of an accident.

                                                                                                                                                  • sebws 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                  • Cthulhu_ 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                    > If the driver committed homicide, it sure sounds like Uber is also guilty of homicide.

                                                                                                                                                    No; an automatic emergency braking system is not required by law. A capable, attentive driver on the other hand is. Working brakes are as well, but it's eventually up to the driver to engage them.

                                                                                                                                                    • DreamSpinner 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                      I think an interesting variation on this is that even if a safety system is not required by law, but is available - then disabling could constitute criminal negligence. Consider what happens if safety equipment on industrial equipment is disabled and injuries result. I'm fairly sure that criminal charges could result for whoever disabled the safety mechanisms (though the there are likely differences between workplace safety criminal law and road safety).
                                                                                                                                                  • jedberg 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                    I mean this makes sense. She was watching a video on her phone while driving. It was her literal job to know that the car might make mistakes and correct for them, so she should have known that she still has to pay attention as though she were actually driving.
                                                                                                                                                    • brudgers 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                      It makes sense because holding users personally responsible for the inadequacies of self-driving products externalizes all the risk for companies selling self-driving systems. The Uber system detected something in the road and proceeded because it did not recognize it. That's how it is designed. Otherwise the car would never go very far without stopping because the system does not recognize most things it detects.

                                                                                                                                                      To put it another way, the self-driving system did not alert the driver that it had detected something and did not know what it was. It wasn't an emergency, it was the car's normal operation.

                                                                                                                                                      • bastawhiz 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                        The system was, by its very nature, not ready for production. That's why it had a safety driver in the first place. It's crazy to argue that the safety driver should have been alerted...the whole point they're there is to handle failures of the system, including ones where the system fails to detect an issue.

                                                                                                                                                        If my skydive instructor doesn't deploy the backup parachute because I, the student, didn't alert them that the primary chute failed to deploy, it's entirely their fault if we hit the ground at terminal velocity.

                                                                                                                                                        If a lifeguard is working at a public pool watching Netflix on their phone and a kid drowns, you can't argue that the kid should have splashed more.

                                                                                                                                                        • liability 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                          Production? It wasn't even ready for testing on the unsuspecting public.
                                                                                                                                                          • bastawhiz 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                            I don't disagree. But that's a separate issue. The safety driver provably did not even make a good faith attempt to perform their function. It's not possible to know whether they would have been able to avoid the tragedy that occurred, but it's a certainty that in any other universe where they were watching TV on their phone they would not have improved the outcome.
                                                                                                                                                        • Erlich_Bachman 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                          Of course it was "inadequate system" if you consider it a full self-driving. It is inadequate in the simple fact that it was not complete. It was under development.

                                                                                                                                                          But how do you suppose we create FSD cars if we can't try them out before they are ready? There is just no other way to do it than vigilant drivers that watch what these cars do.

                                                                                                                                                          > To put it another way, the self-driving system did not alert the driver that it had detected something

                                                                                                                                                          Well of course not, who would expect that? If the car could positively identify the collision before it happened, it would have simply stopped, no need for a driver at all. The driver is there to prevent exactly this kinds of accidents, and this driver failed by getting our her phone and distracting herself with streaming videos instead of doing her one job. Plain and simple.

                                                                                                                                                          • formercoder 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                            She wasn’t a “user”
                                                                                                                                                            • derwiki 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                              This was a training mission. Uber wasn't offering rides to passengers who weren't employees.
                                                                                                                                                            • skywhopper 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                              As mentioned by others, I think it depends strongly on what the driver's training was. Between the overblown hype about the capabilities of self-driving cars, the state government's abdication of its regulation power, and the intentional disabling of existing safety devices on the vehicle (it's unclear if this change or the risks of the change were communicated to the driver), I would be honestly surprised if the driver believed it was actually that dangerous to allow her attention to drift.

                                                                                                                                                              It's one thing to charge negligent homicide with a typical car. But the near-fraudulent claims of self-driving car hucksters at the time had a lot of people believing these vehicles were already far more capable than they will be for decades to come. And it's inevitable that the Koolaid drinking in this particular program within Uber was at its strongest. So I doubt the safety drivers were adequately informed of the actual capabilities of the cars or the risks involved.

                                                                                                                                                              • tmsh 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                I agree. This is where torts get fun in first-year law school. If Uber's training wasn't perfectly clear about the importance of the job of monitoring outside the vehicle, then part of the liability shifts to them.

                                                                                                                                                                Consider two training courses:

                                                                                                                                                                * instructors who are gung-ho on automation being "nearly there" and encouraging people to relax in the car and let the software do its work!

                                                                                                                                                                * instructors who are constantly impressing upon students that they need to be vigilant.

                                                                                                                                                                One can see how one party is 90% liable. And the other is 10% liable, etc.

                                                                                                                                                                The interesting part of this case comes down to the training. In that if it was lacking, it then makes it very clear to future companies that their training needs to be more rigorous.

                                                                                                                                                                • Cd00d 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                  Thank you for this comment and the insight. I have a follow up question: even after training, is there a liability burden to ensure the training is followed? I know no hiring process is perfect, so you're always going to end up with the occasional employee that disregards safety training. Knowing that, is there a burden on Uber to actively monitor the driver's attention and communicate to the driver when it is not sufficient? Even on an audit basis, but more ideally constant?
                                                                                                                                                                  • tmsh 309 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                    Those are great questions. I think it comes down to negligence and whether the employer makes a good faith attempt training and monitoring throughout the process. Sometimes that's difficult in new fields and then it seems like the burden falls less on the employee (the company is taking on this risk, given the chance for new rewards).
                                                                                                                                                                • cyrux004 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                  Its literally in the name of the job title "Car safety driver"
                                                                                                                                                                  • xadhominemx 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                    She was not brand new on the job, right? She knew how often intervention was required and chose to watch TV instead.
                                                                                                                                                                  • darkerside 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                    The fundamental attribution error suggests that the job she was asked to perform may not make any sense.
                                                                                                                                                                    • cameldrv 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                      The vehicle is designed to ultimately be a level 4 system. She effectively has the job of a test pilot of an experimental airplane. The job requires careful attention and is not easy.

                                                                                                                                                                      There would be a different blame calculus if this were a production level 2 system like autopilot. In that case, it's not a paid test pilot, it would be the paid purchaser of a certified aircraft.

                                                                                                                                                                      • darkerside 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                        And yet she was probably paid like the test pilot for a beta web application. A test pilot for experimental aircraft doesn't even bring their phone in the vehicle with them.
                                                                                                                                                                        • cameldrv 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                          Perhaps so, but there are a lot of jobs that have high responsibility but aren't very well paid. School bus driver, for example. If you're not willing to take the responsibility, don't take the job. I do think that Uber bears significant responsibility for their employee's actions as well though. They hired a convicted felon, and assuming this wasn't the first time she was watching movies on the job, didn't effectively monitor her, even though they had video cameras inside the car.
                                                                                                                                                                          • kyleee 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                            I was wondering that too, was this person making $14 an hour or $140k a year? That factors in IMO, at least in some small way
                                                                                                                                                                      • johnnyfaehell 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                        But even if she wasn't watching a video, as far as I remember, there was nothing that could have been done. It was an accident that would have happened if it was a manually operated car with an alert driver, no?
                                                                                                                                                                        • user5994461 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                          >>> It was an accident that would have happened if it was a manually operated car with an alert driver, no?

                                                                                                                                                                          No, the last articles and discussions were quite clear that this accident wouldn't have happened with a real driver. The road conditions were good, the visibility was good. A driver would have seen the woman crossing the road well enough and slow down.

                                                                                                                                                                          • jeroenhd 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                            From the footage I've seen (both the footage Uber released, which portrayed the road as much darker than it actually was, and from videos of people driving around in the same area after it happened) I can only conclude that an attentive driver would've been able to prevent the crash.

                                                                                                                                                                            However, I don't think it's reasonable at all to expect someone to remain attentive while looking at a self-driving car. This is the same problem train drivers face, which has been mitigated with all sorts of methods, least of which a dead-man switch. Some countries let their train drivers mention every signal they come across to themselves, with Japanese train drivers even pointing at signs to ensure they're paying attention.

                                                                                                                                                                            This was a vehicle that had been modified to reduce certain safety features (because Uber couldn't get them to work properly) with someone at the wheel expected to be 100% focused on the road while giving them nothing to do at the same time. You can only go through so many hours of sitting in a card doing nothing before you go crazy.

                                                                                                                                                                            From a revenge-seeking perspective it's easy to blame the one person who could've stopped the car for her obvious disregard for safety (streaming video on the job), and I suppose a criminal justice case might be in order. However, I think Uber should be mainly responsible for the loss of life because their flawed design not only made the car less secure but also completely disregarded the human psychology when they designed how their human safeguard driver should do their job. Even human-operated cars will beep and yell at you if you don't pay attention while you're driving in cruise control, if such safety features were omitted in the self-driving design then clearly the driver was set up to take the fall when something bad would happen.

                                                                                                                                                                            I strongly believe Uber only put that woman in there because local law wouldn't let them test their car without a human at the wheel, not because they wanted to ensure their car didn't kill anyone.

                                                                                                                                                                            • dllthomas 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                              > Japanese train drivers even pointing at signs to ensure they're paying attention.

                                                                                                                                                                              I think pointing out things in the environment is a great idea for safety drivers in this kind of setting. It helps keep them engaged, possibly helps the system notice when they're distracted, and possibly provides additional useful training data.

                                                                                                                                                                            • DevoidSimo 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                              From what I remember the person that was hit was fairly visible. The video uber released was very dark however, giving that impression.
                                                                                                                                                                              • Cthulhu_ 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                Accidents do happen, but the circumstances in this case are important; she was not paying attention to the road when it happened. If the victim came out of nowhere and she could not act, the case would pan out differently.
                                                                                                                                                                              • vaccinator 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                depends what she was told by the company I guess... and if he situation was avoidable at all
                                                                                                                                                                                • kevin_thibedeau 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                  It doesn't matter what she was told. She was in charge of the vehicle. She was the licensed operator. The presence of a broken ML autosteer doesn't abdicate responsibility.

                                                                                                                                                                                  This is part of the general attitude that rights and freedoms don't matter if a machine violates them. When you walk out of a store post purchase and the security alarm goes off you have zero obligation to disclose what is now your property to the loss prevention experts. But somehow it's acceptable to assume you're a criminal because a machine said so.

                                                                                                                                                                                  • user5994461 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                    >>> When you walk out of a store post purchase and the security alarm goes off you have zero obligation to disclose what is now your property to the loss prevention experts.

                                                                                                                                                                                    protip: You probably want to let them figure out what is the thing beeping while you're still in the shop. It's not great to get home only to realize that they forgot to take off the anti theft device on some of your beers.

                                                                                                                                                                                    • mindslight 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                      > This is part of the general attitude that rights and freedoms don't matter if a machine violates them. When you walk out of a store post purchase and the security alarm goes off you have zero obligation to disclose what is now your property to the loss prevention experts. But somehow it's acceptable to assume you're a criminal because a machine said so.

                                                                                                                                                                                      IMO this is much more applicable to Uber's share of the responsibility for this incident.

                                                                                                                                                                                      • brokenmachine 309 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                        Can you explain this further? How does that example equate to uber's responsibility?
                                                                                                                                                                                      • rhino369 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                        Intent matters. The state has to provide criminal negligence, which in most states requires very risky behavior.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Driving while watching a video certainly qualifies normally, but purely hypothetically, if Uber had internally said it was totally safe to drive distracted, then maybe she has a defense.

                                                                                                                                                                                        • dragonwriter 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                          > Intent matters.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Only to a crime whose required mental state is intent, which rules out crimes of negligent or recklessness (or strict liability, for that matter.)

                                                                                                                                                                                          > The state has to provide criminal negligence, which in most states requires very risky behavior.

                                                                                                                                                                                          “A motorist can be convicted of negligent homicide for causing the death of another person while driving in a criminally negligent manner. A person acts with criminal negligence by unknowingly doing or failing to do something that creates a substantial and unjustifiable risk to others. The risk must be of such nature and degree that the failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would use in like circumstances.”


                                                                                                                                                                                          I don't think that that's a hard fit for the publicly-reported facts of this case.

                                                                                                                                                                                          > Driving while watching a video certainly qualifies normally, but purely hypothetically, if Uber had internally said it was totally safe to drive distracted, then maybe she has a defense.

                                                                                                                                                                                          No, if “Uber” said that there is an even greater case than there already is under simple respondeat superior for the actions of the driver alone as agent of the firm for Uber to be charged with negligent homicide, manslaughter, or even 2nd degree murder.

                                                                                                                                                                                          But I don't think any representation by Uber could reduce the standard of care owed by a safety driver to members of the public to something below “not watching a video on the phone while supervising the safety of the operation of a self-driving vehicle”.

                                                                                                                                                                                          • rhino369 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                            I should have said "mens rea," but it's a legal term that roughly translates to intent.

                                                                                                                                                                                            >I don't think that that's a hard fit for the publicly-reported facts of this case.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Agreed, unless (again 100% hypothetically) Uber misled the driver about the capabilities. Even then it would still require that a reasonable person would believe a (hypothetical) incorrect statement about the car's capability.

                                                                                                                                                                                            >No, if “Uber” said that there is an even greater case than there already is under simple respondeat superior for the actions of the driver alone as agent of the firm for Uber to be charged with negligent homicide, manslaughter, or even 2nd degree murder.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Not sure respondeat superior applies to criminal law. In either case, I think operating a fleet while (again 1000% hypothetically) misleading the drivers would be itself the act of criminal negligence. So I don't think you'd even need to resort to master/agent liability.

                                                                                                                                                                                            >But I don't think any representation by Uber could reduce the standard of care owed by a safety driver to members of the public to something below “not watching a video on the phone while supervising the safety of the operation of a self-driving vehicle”.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Not my area of expertise and I haven't looked at any case law on this point, but I think a believable statements made by Uber would be considered as the circumstances wrt "standard of care that a reasonable person would use in like circumstances."

                                                                                                                                                                                            If a reasonable person would believe it was safe to watch the video while driving, it wouldn't qualify as criminal negligence.

                                                                                                                                                                                          • kevin_thibedeau 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                            The only reason why motor vehicles require licensed operation is because of their extraordinary capacity to kill people. That is why it is regarded as a privilege and not a right.

                                                                                                                                                                                            The reason why Uber had a human monitor, one required to have a valid motor vehicle license, is because of the potential lethal outcomes. You learn all of this when preparing to test for a license. It doesn't stop being one's responsibility to be a vigilant driver because it's convenient to do something else. Even considering the general stupidity levels of American drivers, ignorance of the law is no excuse.

                                                                                                                                                                                            • Cthulhu_ 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                              > if Uber had internally said it was totally safe to drive distracted, then maybe she has a defense.

                                                                                                                                                                                              What Uber (hypothetically might have) said is completely irrelevant; she was the driver, she is responsible.

                                                                                                                                                                                            • nafey 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                              "licensed operator" [citation needed]

                                                                                                                                                                                              I dont even know what license beyond a driving license exists for this job. Clearly not every driving license holder is fit to hold this position.

                                                                                                                                                                                              • kevin_thibedeau 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                Everybody with a drivers license is supposedly qualified to operate a motor vehicle. That usually entails not killing random people.
                                                                                                                                                                                            • baddox 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                              That is, presumably, something that the grand jury considered.
                                                                                                                                                                                              • vaccinator 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                maybe she had an attorney chosen by Uber?
                                                                                                                                                                                                • kortilla 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                  She can choose her own attorney.
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • vaccinator 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                    but did she...maybe Uber said.. here, take this free attorney
                                                                                                                                                                                                    • kayfox 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                      Its unethical for a lawyer to do things not in their client's best interests, and even if Uber is paying for the lawyer, their client is who they are representing.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      • bigiain 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                        And _surely_ Uber would never do or encourage anything unethical.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Oh, right...

                                                                                                                                                                                                        • kayfox 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                          Ethics violations are a big deal for attorneys, if a complaint is sustained against them with the bar association, they can loose their ability to practice law.
                                                                                                                                                                                                          • mindslight 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                            In theory, yes. In practice an attorney has to be intelligent enough to recognize the conflict of interest, and many of them aren't.
                                                                                                                                                                                                • vmception 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                  mmm yeah with their expert witness that can make up stuff on the spot

                                                                                                                                                                                                  lets just acknowledge inefficiencies in the system

                                                                                                                                                                                                  • baddox 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                    I acknowledge inefficiencies in the system but I also suspect that grand juries usually consider the most basic relevant facts of the case.
                                                                                                                                                                                                    • vmception 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                      Grand juries consider the local laws as worded and the instructions they are given by the state which can be plain wrong, it is inherently imbalanced and is a common area of review when looking at miscarriages of justice.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Also trending on HN today: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24488350

                                                                                                                                                                                                    • kortilla 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                      So you’re positing that the expert witness committed perjury and that Uber secretly told the driver that it was okay for her not to pay attention to what the car was doing?
                                                                                                                                                                                                      • vmception 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                        Miscarriage of justice possible, perjury not necessarily.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I don't even know if an expert witness was there, thats how grand juries work.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        And that a corporation didn't tell a full truth and threw an "maybe employee" under the bus? Not really that much to "posit".

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Ironically also trending on HN at time of writing: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24488350

                                                                                                                                                                                                        • brokenmachine 309 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                          I thought it was very interesting that the police chief came out immediately blaming the pedestrian and saying the crash was unavoidable.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          When I saw the dashcam footage, I just thought to myself, I probably would have avoided that, had I been driving.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          I've watched my own dashcam footage before and people on the periphery come out less visible than in reality because the headlights blow out the video - the camera has less dynamic range than our eyes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                • jeffbee 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                  How many Americans have been killed by distracted drivers, though? How many of those were indicted for homicide? Usually what happens when you run over someone, no matter what the circumstances, is the cops exonerate you on live television, with a statement about how "no criminality is suspected" which is suuuuuuuper weird because there's no other kind of killing you can do and get that treatment.
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • pb7 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                    How many have videos of both the victim being clearly hit and the driver being severely negligent leading up to and including the accident? How many are pedestrians that subsequently die?
                                                                                                                                                                                                    • jeffbee 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                      Well, 20 pedestrians die on American roads every day. It's incredibly common. The cops usually don't even bother looking for evidence. This idiot live-streamed himself killing a pedestrian in San Francisco, after months of filling up his Instagram with motorized jackassery, and the cops only charged him with manslaughter, not negligent homicide.


                                                                                                                                                                                                      • pb7 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                        I did a cursory search and it seems that involuntary manslaughter and negligent homicide are the same thing in some jurisdictions but in others (most?), manslaughter ranks lesser in severity than negligent homicide. One reason I can think of that they would charge one and not the other is that it’s easier to convict due to not having to prove criminal intent, especially when the possible punishment is similar.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      • renewiltord 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                        Drivers getting away with killing pedestrians and cyclists is like the most common thing in the world.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        As for "how many have videos": when Amelie Le Moullac was killed by a truck, the police didn't even check videos. There had to be a grassroots effort to go get the video.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        You're kidding me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      • gkop 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                        To any curious readers like me: the charge is negligent homicide (the indictment itself is linked at bottom of article)
                                                                                                                                                                                                        • jedberg 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                          Most of the time there isn't a video of both the driver and the incident with detailed telemetry data. Also, commercial drivers are held to a higher standard.
                                                                                                                                                                                                      • samcheng 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                        That poor person is Uber's "moral crumple zone"


                                                                                                                                                                                                        Fitting, given Uber's reputation for questionable morality...

                                                                                                                                                                                                        • jameslk 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                          > After the crash, police obtained search warrants for Vasquez's cellphones as well as records from the video streaming services Netflix, YouTube, and Hulu. The investigation concluded that because the data showed she was streaming The Voice over Hulu at the time of the collision, and the driver-facing camera in the Volvo showed "her face appears to react and show a smirk or laugh at various points during the time she is looking down", Vasquez may have been distracted from her primary job of monitoring road and vehicle conditions.[0]

                                                                                                                                                                                                          That poor person, who's job it was to watch the road, seems to have been watching Hulu instead. That's a pretty willful disregard for their job and for other's lives. I don't have much pity for them if this is the case.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          I get your point about moral crumple zones and I suppose there's cases one could to point to demonstrate it, but this is definitely not a very good example of it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          0. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Elaine_Herzberg#Distr...

                                                                                                                                                                                                          • jakear 310 days ago

                                                                                                                                                                                                            > "Had the vehicle operator been attentive, she would likely have had sufficient time to detect and react to the crossing pedestrian to avoid the crash or mitigate the impact," the November 2019 NTSB report stated.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            This isn’t a case of the Uber performing some split-second error that needed immediate correction then blaming the driver when that didn’t happen, the way so many in this thread seem to want to make it out to be. This is a person whose job it was to watch the road watching Hulu instead and as a result failing to react to developing conditions that, if NTSB is to be believed (and I trust them a whole lot more than the randos commenting here), could have easily been prevented by an attentive driver.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          • clusterfish 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                            Guy was using his phone not paying attention to the road when testing experimental equipment on a public road. He was there specifically to mitigate potential malfunctions of said experimental equipment, but he was reading reddit or whatever instead of keeping lookout.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            I can't see how this is not clear cut negligence.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            • akira2501 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                              The vehicle was travelling the posted speed limit at night, as designed. The NHTSA pointed this out that the law may require you to travel at a "safe" speed, and simply choosing to always move at the posted limit is potentially a moving violation and a design flaw.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              The vehicle was travelling 20mph faster than it's own "safe clear ahead" zone allowed for. Simply ignoring it's own safety limits and travelling at a higher rate of speed is a design flaw.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Designing a large public road autonomous vehicle test and not taking into account an easily predicted human vulnerability that's been known in other automation experiments for decades is a project design flaw.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Whether or not the driver is at some fault, I think the court will be capable of determining that. Arizona's willingness to completely disregard the mountains of negligence on part of a giant corporation is disturbing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              • JanSt 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                Isn't it the drivers job to take control whenever there is a design flaw? I thought that was the exact job description.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                If the car is going over it's speed limit, the driver should react.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                I see that some people think Uber should have added systems to control the safety driver. I think that's a fair point, but it doesn't take away the drivers responsibility. They knew the car isn't perfect. It's their job to take over control whenever that happens.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                • freeone3000 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Their job, as designed, is impossible. Automation complacency is well-known and well-studied -- any system which requires no input for an hour and then requires you to act randomly within seconds is an impossible task for humans. Volvo's self-driving (hands-on-wheel required) accounts for that. Uber's did not.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • clusterfish 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Uber posted a safety driver specifically to make the car safe at regular speeds despite the limitations of the autonomous system. That driver just wasn't doing their job.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                • ardy42 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  > Guy was using his phone not paying attention to the road when testing experimental equipment on a public road. He was there specifically to mitigate potential malfunctions of said experimental equipment, but he was reading reddit or whatever instead of keeping lookout.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  > I can't see how this is not clear cut negligence.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1) The driver is a woman.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2) While I think the driver does bear some fault here, they don't bear all the fault. Uber designed an unsafe system that relied on an unnatural amount of vigilance from a single person while simultaneously discouraging that vigilance [1]. They didn't design the car to shut down when one of it's critical safety components (the driver) was not operating correctly, and they didn't even give that driver amphetamines or something to increase their vigilance to artificial levels.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  [1] Basically: pay close attention to a boring process while doing absolutely nothing for hours on end. I'm pretty sure that's a classic "humans suck at this" task.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • clusterfish 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    That "unnatural amount of vigilance" is just sitting in a comfy seat and looking at the road ahead of you go by. There is nothing unnatural about that. Lots of people do similar or more boring tasks just fine.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    This isn't a truck driver falling asleep from exhaustion caused by aggressive scheduling. You don't "accidentally" take out your phone when your job is looking ahead. That's deliberate negligence.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    If you want to require eye sensors to detect distraction, by all means, pass a law about it. Maybe include regular non-AI cars too. #1 cause of accidents over here.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • ardy42 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      > That "unnatural amount of vigilance" is just sitting in a comfy seat and looking at the road ahead of you go by. There is nothing unnatural about that.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Statements like this seem to indicate a failure to understand what the difficult part of the task was. In short: a boring monitoring task that was practically unnecessary 99.99000% of the time, but absolutely critical maybe 0.00001% of the time. The typical-case lack of necessity would strongly re-enforce engaging with distractions over time (i.e. distraction more rewarding, and nearly all of the time no negative feedback of any kind).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      > This isn't a truck driver falling asleep from exhaustion caused by aggressive scheduling. You don't "accidentally" take out your phone when your job is looking ahead. That's deliberate negligence.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I'm not saying there was no negligence here on the part of the driver, just that Uber itself was at least as negligent if not more so for designing the system in the way it did. Focusing too much on the driver is an error.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Honestly, watching a show was egregious, but I wouldn't be surprised if the drivers would end up falling asleep on a regular basis if all distractions were removed from their environment. Half paying attention to something I wasn't interested in has always been the best way to get me to fall asleep.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • vkou 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        > That "unnatural amount of vigilance" is just sitting in a comfy seat and looking at the road ahead of you go by.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Doing that for five minutes is easy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Can you do that for eight hours? Day after day? Without a single lapse in attention?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        This is a much harder job then the truck driver has - because he constantly has to make microadjustments, to correct for road conditions.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        People's brains don't work the way you think they do.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • misja111 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The driver wouldn't be prosecuted if she just had a lapse of attention. She had taken her phone and was watching a TV show. That's a deliberate act.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • vkou 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I'm not saying the driver wasn't negligent in watching TV, instead of the road. In fact, I don't think anyone in this thread is saying that.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I am saying that passively watching the road for hours on end is much harder than actively driving.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Erlich_Bachman 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Many people write this notion in this thread. Do you have any data for this BTW? How are you claiming this confidently? Have you driven a self-driving car? Many people (myself included) find it quite easy to monitor the road in it for long periods of time. If the driver was not one of them, she shouldn't have taken the job and risked innocent lives.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • freeone3000 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              https://www.mitre.org/sites/default/files/pdf/pr-3426-lesson... is a 2019 literature review of the phenomenon - section 2, reaction times in response to deviations in automated tasks, is of particular relevance here. (Summary: humans are bad at this)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • vkou 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                How are you so confident that you are different from all the Tesla owners whose self-crashing autopilots drove their vehicles into stationary objects, fire trucks, semis, etc?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                What makes you confident that you are actually good at it, and are not the victim of Dunning-Kruger? Do you regularly find yourself in the process of stopping your self-serving car from crashing into things?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Or has your car simply not crashed yet?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Erlich_Bachman 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  > all the Tesla owners whose self-crashing autopilots drove their vehicles into stationary objects

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  All the 3 of them? Among millions of Tesla vehicles out there and the hundreds of millions of miles driven? Is that even a considerable risk when compared to the general (non-zero!) risks of driving?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  For me personally I simply know when I watch the road and when I don't. For some people this might be hard, for others - not so much. I am aware of when I pull out my phone or distract myself and when not.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • vkou 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I'm sure you're aware of when you've pulled out your phone, or are playing with your infotainment system. (You should also stop doing it, it's negligent and illegal.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    But are you just watching or are you seeing the road? How many times have you taken control from your car doing something stupid and dangerous?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Unless the answer to that second question is 'I do it all[1] the time, and I'm batting 20/20', what makes you confident that you'll catch the next instance?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    [1] If that's really the case, you should probably short TSLA, it doesn't sound like their car can safely operate.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • clusterfish 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                It is rather unlikely, statistically, that this was a single lapse. Or that a single lapse would cause an accident. It's not like the driver's finger was hovering over a nuclear launch button.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Yes, I think I would be able to do this job safely. Not everyone has problems with focus to such an extent that you can't help but be on the phone when you need to be paying attention.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • HeWhoLurksLate 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I agree with you except for

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              > and they didn't even give that driver amphetamines

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Yo, what? IIRC, most *amphetamines are either illegal in the US or like FDA Class 1 substances or something like that, and you just want to throw them at people operating > 1 ton machinery? That seems like it could have an even higher risk for danger.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • ardy42 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                > Yo, what? IIRC, most amphetamines are either illegal in the US or like FDA Class 1 substances or something like that, and you just want to throw them at people operating > 1 ton machinery? That seems like it could have an even higher* risk for danger.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                That's true, and my comment was mostly sarcastic (but a little serious). Amphetamines are given to military pilots to increase alertness [1]. They're also used to treat attention deficit disorder (stimulants also increase focus in healthy people, see coffee). Some years ago I read that they're also popular in some parts of Asia not for recreation, but to help workers focus on boring, repetitive tasks (and they apparently can even make that kind of work seem "fun"), but I can't find the exact article again.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The kind of job these "car monitors" are expected to do is so unnatural that it's ludicrous that someone could be expected to succeed at it perfectly, unassisted.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                [1] https://aviation.stackexchange.com/questions/8885/do-militar...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • gjs278 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  lol. no, that's not how amphetamines work. and they're not class 1 either.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Aunche 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Modern cars are essentially self driving on the highway, and it doesn't require an an unnatural level vigilance to operate them. To be fair, the driver's assistance features are usually come with an attention monitor, so Uber is negligent in that aspect.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Also, no one said the driver has to do nothing. They can safely listen to audiobooks or talk on the phone.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • cocire 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    talking on the phone can be nearly as distracting as watching TV in some cases. it's also illegal in a lot of places...
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • gjs278 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      pretty much nowhere is it illegal to talk on the phone while driving if it's in hands free mode
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • creddit 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    How is the required amount of vigilance any different than that of normal driving?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • freeone3000 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      In normal driving, the driver is continually taking actions. Making small adjustments, considering hypotheticals, checking mirrors and speed. If the user is continually engaging with the system, there's less of a risk of the user's attention lapsing. Once the user's input is no longer required, humans are very bad at paying attention to something that doesn't change, and very bad at reacting to the change when it does happen.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • creddit 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I fail to see what stops one of these car monitors from “considering hypotheticals, checking mirrors and speed.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I get that it’s boring but fail to see how that’s an excuse for not paying attention (or watching streaming video) to a dynamic system you’re expected to actively engage with.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Many train systems are largely autonomous and far more static and yet we still expect train operators to not kill someone on the tracks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        How do you feel about lifeguards as a job? Failure of pools and beaches to design a good system?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • freeone3000 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Please see the top comment for how lifeguard systems avoid these issues - 30-minute short shifts, overlapping responsibilities, and monitored attention.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Train conductors do not require second-level reaction time. A train cannot stop in five seconds, no matter how quick the conductor is. People who are stopped on train tracks get killed, and the train operator is very rarely to blame.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Erlich_Bachman 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      In what world is asking someone to at least not pick up their phone and start watching videos instead of doing one's job and at least looking at the road outside is "unnatural amount of vigilance"?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      It's the basic job description. If she couldn't do it, she shouldn't have taken the job.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • brokenmachine 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      This is the first of many such cases to come.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      It's unreasonable to hold someone accountable for a "self-driving car" that suddenly decides at a split-seconds notice that it can't cope driving.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Of course this is extra bad because it's an experimental car, but it's the same in my opinion with those Teslas on the road now that do the same thing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Erlich_Bachman 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        > It's unreasonable to hold someone accountable for a "self-driving car"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        It is not unreasonable at all. She had one job to do - look at the road. She failed it because she felt that her entertainment was more important than doing her job. She picked up her phone and started streaming videos. She failed at her one job, plain and simple. She knew everything about the job and still chose to watch some videos and risk lives.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • brokenmachine 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I said it was slightly worse in this case and sibling commenters have addressed this issue.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The experimental car shouldn't have been on the road at all if the only thing separating it from killing people is someone who is expected to maintain concentration for hours/days while simultaneously not actually doing anything.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Erlich_Bachman 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            How do you expect the humanity to create a self-driving car then? Somehow magically create it from 0% to 100% in a lab, and then let out on the street? This is never going to work, it needs testing on public roads. What is your plan then? How do you propose FSD cars should be developed?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • ycombobreaker 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              For starters, Uber could have just not disabled the existing failsafe mechanisms that the car had.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Then, if we start with the expectation that a human in the loop is necessary for live testing, we could have two. It reduces the impact of independent failures. It also adds some social pressure to avoid negligence. It also provides overlapping coverage, as a lifeguard in this thread has pointed out.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Humans are fallible. Accept that, and design systems to be safe despite individual errors.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Driving a car is not the same aa monitoring a self driving car. There will be differences in attentiveness. Stop equating them.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • brokenmachine 309 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Lets not act like it's a self-fulfilling prophecy that FSD cars on existing public roads will exist.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                In my opinion, safe FSD cars are not possible with current technology on existing public roads - so either the technology has to improve by orders of magnitude, or the roads need to be modified significantly.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The gung-ho experimentation that is going on in public is in my opinion very dangerous and should be stopped, and this case is a perfect example of why.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Both the road infrastructure and other drivers are too crappy and unpredictable for FSD cars to be viable and safe.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Also this business of holding someone who is not actually controlling the vehicle accountable is ridiculous, and is surely something which will be proven in court eventually.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • lhorie 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            What I find puzzling is that I keep hearing people say that it's impossible for people to stay alert while not being the driver, when there's actually a pretty popular term to describe that very thing: a backseat driver[1].

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            If you go on a long multi-day road trip, you might even end up relying on a passenger's feedback in a moment of tiredness.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Back-seat_driver

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • brokenmachine 309 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Did you actually read that page? A backseat driver doesn't trust the actual driver.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              >A backseat driver may be uncomfortable with the skills of the driver, feel out of control since they are not driving the vehicle

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Are you saying that the meatbag in a "self-driving car" is equivalent to a backseat driver?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Because if you are, then "self-driving cars" will never be viable because the humans inside don't actually trust them.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • lhorie 309 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Trust is beside the point. The actual point is that they are able to pay attention to the road, even for prolonged amounts of time, and react to perceived danger, despite not being the ones who are actually in control of the car.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The claim I'm disputing is the one that says people are somehow incapable of paying attention to the road for extended periods of time unless they are in control of the vehicle.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I might agree that a reaction might be jerky and panicky, but then again, they would by definition be so regardless, due to the unexpected nature of accidents

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • brokenmachine 308 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  So other road users' safety is reliant on jerky and panicky responses to perceived danger as well as real emergencies.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  That sounds like a nice safe system.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  For the record, I don't agree. I feel that the average person who would choose to use a self-driving will tend to be overly relaxed and trusting, not what I'd call a backseat driver.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The kind of person who is a backseat driver wouldn't trust the car's driving and would prefer to control it themselves, and thus wouldn't be using the self-driving feature in the first place.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • marcinzm 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I give you a weight, you are to hold the weight in front of you with your arm outstretched, for 12 hours straight. If you drop your arm then a random person is shot. If you drop the weight is the death your fault or my fault for putting you in an impossible, for a human, situation?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Humans are very bad at paying attention for a rare event and having nothing else to do 99.999% of the rest of the time. This is surely well known to the people who set up this system in the self driving car.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • clusterfish 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Looking at the road when sitting in the drivers seat without being absorbed by your phone is not, in any way, a hard task. Truck drivers, train drivers, pilots and other equipment operators exist. Millions of people do it every day. Those that don't, and end up killing someone are held responsible if found out.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Don't take a boring job if you can't handle it. The required basic level of continued attention is not a superhuman skill. It's not a job for everyone but it's not exceptional at all.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • ardy42 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                > Looking at the road when sitting in the drivers seat without being absorbed by your phone is not, in any way, a hard task. Truck drivers, train drivers, pilots and other equipment operators exist. Millions of people do it every day. Those that don't, and end up killing someone are held responsible if found out.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Driving a truck is in no way comparable to what this lady was tasked to do. A truck driver is performing an active task (operating a truck), this lady was supposed to be performing a passive task (monitoring a truck's driving). Active and passive tasks are very different beasts.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                But you're on to something with your comparison to pilots. Planes are mostly automated. When that automation fails, the pilots often lack the situational awareness to avoid a crash when they have to take over (for an example, see https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/children-of-the-magen...).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • clusterfish 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I don't think this distinction is morally meaningful. Do passive monitoring tasks require more discipline? Probably. Are you unable to perform them? Get another job.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  How many times do you think this driver was distracted with the phone when doing their job? I bet it wasn't just this one time that they happened to crash.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Pilots crash after hours of boredom because debugging problems in the air is hard, not because they were negligent leading up to the problem (vast majority of the time, anyway). And still by and large they succeed, it just goes unreported in the news because business-as-usual. This driver on the other hand got into an unrecoverable situation because of their own behaviour.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • marcinzm 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Except they're not driving, they're just watching as the car drives itself. Driving implies you are perform actions in response to the environment, these people do not, they simply sit and watch.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • gamblor956 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Not even remotely the same thing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Dude was paid to pay attention. He didn't. It wasn't because he got fatigued, it was because he was deliberately doing something else, by choice

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • foerbert 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Yes, but no. The point that was trying to be made was that he was hired for a task that's fundamentally extremely difficult for humans. You can pay a person all you want to stare at paint drying so they can note down the exact moment it's perfectly dry, but don't be surprised when they do a poor job.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The guy screwed up. Uber knew he almost certainly would. I won't say the guy isn't responsible at all, but pretending this is purely on him and Uber bears 0% of the responsibility is just silly. Humans are not capable of anything and everything simply because they are provided pay.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • gamblor956 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      My point was that what the driver did was not negligence, it was deliberate inattention.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      If she had been negligent, i.e., too tired to notice the pedestrian, that would have been a different matter. If she had been paying attention most of the time but inadvertently reached over to drink some coffee, that would have been a different matter.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      But she wasn't too tired, and she wasn't momentarily reaching for a drink; she was simply choosing not to pay attention to her job so she could do something else instead.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • foerbert 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        You're still missing what I'm trying to say, I think. I'm not talking about fatigue, or brief inattention, or anything like that.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I'm saying that the inattention was basically a given. Yeah, at some point the driver went and grabbed a phone. It may have been fiddling with junk in the car, or their fingers, or day dreaming to the extent they were unaware of the world around them.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Yeah, they grabbed a phone. Is that really any different from any of the above? I don't think so. Particularly considering how ingrained the reflex is to grab and fiddle with a phone when bored is. I wouldn't be surprised if they never consciously decided to pick the thing up.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The task was simply unreasonable. Uber should have foreseen this problem and implemented systems to aide and monitor their drivers.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • bryanrasmussen 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        although I agree Uber bears most of the responsibility the analogy was ridiculous in not being fundamentally extremely difficult but basically impossible.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Aside from this, if the car had been driving over the speed suitable for the conditions at the time the fall person had plenty of time to note that and take over, in that case it was more like huh, the paint is drying but it looks like it's going to rain .... long time looking like it's going to rain ... oh no should have put the covers on!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        But I'm betting the need to take over and drive is not properly given to the fall person either.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • marcinzm 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        When people are bored they get distracted and do other things. This is well known human nature and very few people are suited to this sort of task. The people who set up the self-driving car should have known better than the uneducated poor person who is being sacrificed.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Erlich_Bachman 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        She could always just take a break if she felt her attention was lacking. Or you know, not take the job in the first place if this job was so hard for her personally.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        It is not at all fair to make the comparison you are making.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • taneq 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The poor guy's a lady. Other than that, agreed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Edit: Post fixed now, disregard. :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • samcheng 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Sorry! I should know better than to assume gender these days. Fixed.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • kikokikokiko 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          He can desire reeeeaaaallllyyyy hard to be a lady all he wants, but he'll never be one. Reality does not change just because of human desire. The guy deserves to be treated with the same amount of respect as any human being does, but he haves no authority over me to obligate me to say an airplane is a submarine.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          On the subject at hand, he was paid to do one job: look at the road and be the safety net between an experimental car and the other people on the road.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          If he was listening to a podcast using headphones it could have been avoided, but he was looking down at his phone for the whole duration of the recorded video we have from the incident.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          It's negligent homicide just as it would be to any other machine operator, on any other industry, that did not fulfilled his duty to the company that contracted him would.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • blackbrokkoli 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        This discussion reminds me an awful lot of Don Normans example regarding human error:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        > Air Force: It was pilot error - the pilot failed to take corrective action

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        > Inspector General: That's because the pilot was probably unconscious.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        > Air Force: So you agree, the pilot failed to correct the problem.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        We can go and blame the driver all day long but that will not actually solve anything. Was it neglect? Probably-maybe, I'm not a lawyer. But that is not the point. Why did the driver look at her phone? How can we prevent that? What other, similar failure modes are there?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        We did this dance with pilots, truck drivers, forklift operators, life guards, factory workers and god knows how many more. It is frankly quite disappointing that HN is overwhelmingly like "this time, we'll just blame the operator!"...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • tobyhinloopen 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The operator was watching a video on her phone. That’s not failure to take action, that’s intentionally putting yourself in a position to not take action
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • TeMPOraL 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            It's also a well-known and completely predictable behavior for humans. In just about every other job requiring constant vigilance, there are multiple factors mitigating this failure mode (shift lengths counted in minutes, multiple observers, automated attention checking devices that shut down the machine if not reacted to, other employees ensuring the observers pay attention, etc.).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Uber should absolutely get the blame for creating this situation in the first place; letting a self-driving car out with only a backup driver as safety, and with her phone on her to boot, should not even be allowed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • crazygringo 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            > Why did the driver look at her phone?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Because she chose to watch a TV show instead of performing her job.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Yes, I'm absolutely blaming the operator on this one.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I don't see how making that conscious choice, of your own free will, when your entire job is safety supervision, is anything but criminal negligence.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • davidhyde 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            > "The vehicle operator’s prolonged visual distraction, a typical effect of automation complacency, led to her failure to detect the pedestrian in time to avoid the collision."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            This is quite an important point. It was very dangerous of Uber to disable both the car’s built-in collision avoidance system and to have nothing to replace it but the backup driver especially when there is a non-zero risk of automation complacency. I’m not trying to cover for the driver as they were clearly at fault. The evidence seems overwhelming. However, Uber shouldn’t be cleared of fault just because the backup driver is found guilty.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • SilasX 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              This. Keep in mind, they rotate lifeguards every 15 minutes, specifically because it's boring and hard to hold attention. It was negligent of Uber not to have some kind of countermeasure like this, even if the driver takes some responsibility.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • cyrux004 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                For a development vehicle,I am assuming they bypassed the car's stock functionality I am sure they had their own braking system that was supposed to stop for cars, pedestrians, cyclists etc. It didnt function currently at that time
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • davidhyde 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  > "Uber had disconnected the Volvo's factory-installed crash avoidance system. While the Uber vehicle's autonomous system did detect Herzberg before the impact, the vehicle — and Uber — relied on Vasquez to take action if an emergency arose."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The Uber software can detect an imminent collision but relies on the backup driver to act on it. For everything else the car is designed to drive itself. This is why "automation complacency" should not be ignored.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • throwaway0a5e 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I still haven't heard a good reason for them to not have also been running Volvo's system in parallel. Considering that the system is clearly not so hair trigger that humans hate it it shouldn't hobble their AI and it seems like all upside and no downside to me.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • foobar1962 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    > I’m not trying to cover for the driver as they were clearly at fault.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    What was the fault? Not paying attention, or driving the car into the pedestrian?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The is the case that decides the law. Glad it's not me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • yholio 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The six levels of vehicle autonomy are marketing bullshit. They imply failure of automation is acceptable and the human can be left to pick up the slack.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    In reality, there is no spectrum of automated driving, with the human doing less and less. Driving is not an instantaneous activity like swimming, it requires planing and strategizing, the decisions made in the past influence situational awareness. I plan an overtake maneuver based on a myriad factors and have escape routes already planned if things don't go well.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    When the automated driver fails a human driver cannot be expected to just drop in and correct the mistakes - by that time, they are uncorectable and the ramp-up time of the human driver far exceeds the available time in most real life situations. In the overtake example, if the autopilot fails when a 20 ton truck is approaching, I have no recourse, I have no idea if an attempt to brake and regroup will be successful because I did not plan the maneuver. Therefore, computer drivers cannot be allowed to fail in such a scenario.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    In practice, there are only two real levels: 1. autonomous; and 0. non-autonomous, with various automation that helps the driver, while he remains fully in control and the sole decision maker. What can constitute a self-driving spectrum is the type of road where full automation is expected to work: from restricted and instrumented roads, where only other similar vehicles are allowed, for the dumbest self-driving modes, and up to full self-driving on general purpose roads mixed with human drivers and pedestrians.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    But the idea that you can achieve level 5 self driving by incrementally improving the systems designed to aid the driver is a dangerous pipe dream.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • slashink 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I hadn’t considered this before but you’re absolutely right. Driving is a continuous operation so it’s almost impossible to pick up without the prior context.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • bob1029 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I still think general AI (i.e. AI so advanced that we would consider protecting each instance as we would a human life) is a prerequisite for truly autonomous driving on our complex roadways today. This is the kind of game theory that would make me feel more comfortable sharing the road with these kinds of cars.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I completely agree with the assertion that the grey area in between is where a bunch of people are going to wind up dead.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • yholio 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Maybe not a prerequisite, but certainly necessary to prevent certain type of long-tailed events. For example, I can anticipate by the look of a neighborhood that it's more likely that there would be jaywalking and poor infrastructure, I can feel that the driver riding ahead is drunk or on drugs and keep my distance etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          It remains to be seen if a automated drivers can make-up for increased risk in such scenarios with good performance in areas they excel, such as reaction time, highly distributive attention, near perfect physical predictions and decisions made on that basis, vehicle-to-vehicle coordination and vehicle to road communication etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          What is clear though is that any practical system in the near term (non-general AI) will approach driving quite differently than a human driver. Hence the jury is still out of lidar vs camera-only approaches (Waymo vs Tesla).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Aeolun 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            > I completely agree with the assertion that the grey area in between is where a bunch of people are going to wind up dead.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            But will more people end up dead than in the scenario where we had no ‘self-driving’ cars at all?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Humans are much more accident prone than robots in all the research on this I’ve seen.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • toast0 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The thing is, most of the deaths from self driving will be seen as preventable, if only a human was driving. That's going to make it look bad, even if the numbers are less.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              If you want to reduce deaths, I think you really want to invest in things like automatic emergency braking, monitoring driver attention, and safely stopping the vehicle if the driver is incapacitated. Having the computer supervise the human means the human is engaged in driving and aware of the circumstances for the most part; a computer supervising a human can act with great speed if the situation warrants, but a human supervising a computer is likely not to react so quickly.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • j7ake 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Calculating just deaths / DrivingDistance is easy but overly simplifies the complicated comparison between human- vs self-driving. Comparing normalized deaths is not sufficient to persuade real people to choose self-driving over human-driving. Real humans and society take into account many more factors to accurately compare the two driving modes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Take a hypothetical scenario where self-driving cars reduce deaths by 10x compared to now, but the deaths caused by self-driving cars are all small children and people with darker skin in human-preventable ways (you can imagine if cameras are used why this could happen). I doubt society would accept this tradeoff.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The safer future is to have humans still drive, but be enhanced by computers and cameras that are installed in the car.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • yholio 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Truth is, we will never accept robots on the roads that are as deadly as human drivers. Especially since they will fail in specific, surprising and hard to comprehend ways, see here.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Robotic drivers will probably need to demonstrate at least an order of magnitude improvement in safety before they can be accepted by the public.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • dboreham 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                You can probably achieve a safer-than-humans solution without strong/general AI, provided it only operates on a special kind of road (in-highway sensors, no pedestrians, all other vehicles are also self-driving).
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • PiRho3141 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Here's the problem. The person was being paid to pay attention to the road. According to the below news article, the person was watching the voice on their mobile phone while the car was driving. Perfectly acceptable if the vehicle has already been rated to be fully autonomous but, in this case, they are still testing the automation and the car detected the bicyclists 5.6 seconds prior to the accident.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Uber should be partially at fault since they deactivated the automatic emergency braking.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Yes, I agree when vehicles become fully autonomous, people will be less attuned to the environment, but in this case, the person was hired specifically to pay attention at all times.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • runamok 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  FYI it was a bicyclist (singular) but they were walking their bike across a crosswalk at 10pm.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Not to victim blame but if they were not wearing lights or a reflective vest I think a human could have made the same tragic error.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  As you point out the system actually DID detect them.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • curiousgal 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    "Herzberg was crossing Mill Avenue (North) from west to east, approximately 360 feet (110 m) south of the intersection with Curry Road, outside the designated pedestrian crosswalk"
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • goodluckchuck 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  This idea needs a little more fleshing out, but is very good.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The Uber vehicle IIRC didn’t abandon control when it saw the pedestrian, it did so (if ever) when it determined that it couldn’t avoid them... So the vehicle had more and better information about the situation.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  “Failing to the driver only works when it’s not helpful.“

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • btbuildem 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Not everybody drives the same way -- from how you describe it, to you driving is an all-encompassing activity, requiring presence, planning, attention etc. Don't get me wrong, that's ideal. Unfortunately most people don't drive like that. For many people, it's an incidental activity, a means to an end, done with the bare minimum of resources required to get by. That's why there are so many "accidents" and why you see so much stupidity on the roads.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • anticensor 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      So, you think SAE J3016 (document that defines this 6-level terminology) is pointless and we could just get away without it? You need to prove your case further.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • tantalor 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Your dichotomy may make sense in theory, but in practice where the average driver makes a fatal mistake at rate X, a level-4 autonomous vehicle with a failure rate Y<X (including when human override is required) is an win.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • darkerside 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I think your claim is far more theoretical in nature. In a vacuum, sure, fewer deaths is better. In the real world, where people aren't satisfied unless someone can be held accountable in a clear way, we are far better off with humans driving.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Retric 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The maker and or operator of a self driving car can be held accountable depending on the specifics. IMO, we have this odd social expectation that humans killing people with cars or pollution is basically acceptable and nothing else really gets that pass.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            IMO, killing someone with a car or a gun is a direct equivalent.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • darkerside 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              It's equivalent, yes. When someone recklessly kills someone with a car, it's called vehicular manslaughter and they are punished for it. It's not considered acceptable.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Blurring the lines of accountability is an anti-feature. The killer feature for humans is that we can be held accountable.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Retric 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                That’s assuming it’s prosecuted which is rare. However, just looking at the laws directly you notice the odd exclusion.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                In California for example vehicular manslaughter is specifically excluded from involuntary manslaughter and carries a lower penalty. It is also frequently just a misdemeanor.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • btbuildem 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        This story has all the key elements that come up in discussions around autonomous vehicles (thankfully omitting that inane trolley problem). To me, it is a preview of what is likely happen when adoption is at scale.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The "driver" (or rather "liability scapegoat") will bear the responsibility when things go wrong -- simply because auto makers or service operators have more legal resources than an individual.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Any person left to "monitor" the vehicle will not be paying attention most of the time. Even a conscientious, mindful and diligent person will tune out sooner or later; the task at hand is almost perfectly tailored to make you drift off. Maybe we can look to train engineers to see how that problem is tackled?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Further development to improve the self-driving capabilities of vehicles is likely to plateau at some arbitrary milestone, because pushing further will cost more than the court battles and keeping favour of public opinion.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • crazygringo 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          > Any person left to "monitor" the vehicle will not be paying attention most of the time.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I'm not actually convinced that's true. Heck, people drive regular cars "mostly on autopilot". Haven't you ever "stopped paying attention" and then realize you don't even remember the last 5 minutes of driving?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          But it's not really a safety issue, because your brain is very capable of automatically and instantly detecting anything out of the ordinary to alert you to, like something in the road in front of you.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Literally all you have to do is just keep your eyes on the road. You don't have to be paying constant "conscious" attention... you just have to have your eyes in the right place so your brain can automatically alert you if something's not right. Which it is excellent at doing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Now I'm not saying that somebody can do it for 36 hours straight or without occasional breaks or whatever. But the idea that this is somehow inherently a task we're not suited for is just ludicrous.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          In this particular case though, it doesn't even have anything to do with her capabilities of sustained attention. She chose to watch a TV show on her phone. She actively and consciously chose to utterly neglect her safety duties, the entire purpose of her job.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • LeftHandPath 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I think this is the best argument for why self-driving cars are much further away than we realize. A fully autonomous vehicle that is perfectly suited for modern city roads is a long way off. A human is still required. In this case, it seems best that the human remains in total control so that they remain in total dedication to the task. For the same reason that some aircraft autopilots shut off when they notice a problem, so that the pilot has to take full control and becomes more aware of problems like if the plane is consistently pulling left or right.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The ideal is that the car helps, but does not take total control. The car keeps you in your lane and automatically speeds up / slows down with highway traffic. It warns you when you turn on your indicator while a car is in your blind spot, and applies the brakes when it detects an imminent collision. But the car should not make turns or apply gas or allow the driver to dedicate their attention to something besides the road. It should augment, but not replace, human abilities.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Hnaomyiph 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              "The "driver" (or rather "liability scapegoat") will bear the responsibility when things go wrong" This was a test vehicle, testing software, not a fully-fledged, mass-produced, 100% autonomous car. The backup driver's entire job was to ensure that is this test software malfunctioned, there would be someone in the seat ready to take over. We can have discussions of who's at fault when we actually build a 100% autonomous car, until then, the driver is, and should be, the one at fault.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • yodon 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              As systems become more reliable, it becomes progressively harder for humans to stay focused and maintain the concentration required to respond in the way this driver was expected to respond.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Yes, the driver is at fault for failing to maintain vigilance, but the engineers who built this system are far more at fault for designing a system whose operating parameters (long stretches of nothing to do culminating in either more nothing to do or a sudden life or death emergency requiring full concentration to detect and process and prevent) are well outside the operating envelope of the human in the system.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The driver was hired to perform a task that was almost guaranteed to result in a deadly injury while some driver was behind the wheels. She didn't have any way to know that, but the engineers did.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • weaksauce 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                > The driver was hired to perform a task that was almost guaranteed to result in a deadly injury while some driver was behind the wheels. She didn't have any way to know that, but the engineers did.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I think the culpability lies a bit more on her than you imply... she was watching a video on her phone instead of surveying the road/instruments for dangers

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • yodon 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  By virtue of being a HN reader, you are almost certainly much better educated and much more highly skilled than the person Uber hired to baby sit their vehicles during testing. Set the alarm on your watch to go off in two hours. Start looking at your monitor to see if any pixels fail in the next two hours. Ask yourself how far into that 2 hour task you were able to maintain vigilance. Now try to do it day after day. Was she at fault, yes. Were the Uber engineers who designed this testing system at fault too? Absolutely.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • weaksauce 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    > Was she at fault, yes. Were the Uber engineers who designed this testing system at fault too?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Those two tasks are quite different. One is driving and observing new stimuli and the other is looking at paint dry. I don't think anyone could do that without adequate breaks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I never implied that the guilt was solely on her... she's culpable to an extent as is uber for not having two backup drivers and/or more breaks to stay fresh. I don't know if they had a written policy about it but I can't imagine being on the phone watching a movie is allowed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • sokoloff 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  > The driver was hired to perform a task that was almost guaranteed to result in a deadly injury while some driver was behind the wheels.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Every airline pilot is hired to perform a task that is guaranteed to result in a deadly injury while some pilot is behind the [yoke/sidestick].

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Every Registry/Department of Motor Vehicles each weekday grants licenses to civilians which are guaranteed to result in a deadly injury while some of them are behind the wheel.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Every commercial truck driver is hired to perform a task...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  That can't possibly be the standard by which we object.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • yodon 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Airline pilots are highly trained, subject to regular physical inspections and testing, and spend much of their careers practicing for emergency procedures to maintain their vigilance.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Auto and truck drivers operating normal vehicles are in a state of at least partial task concentration while operating their vehicles. The task concentration context in which this test driver was seated was completely unlike that of a normal vehicle driver.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • tunesmith 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  One of the other front page articles right now is the PDF about Judea Pearl's book, and it describes exactly this case, including that there was a roughly six second window. And that the car normally had a feature to stop in those cases, but that the engineers (who I take to not be the driver) turned it off due to false positives.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I'm still unclear on how they find liability here - should it all fall on the driver? You could argue "but for" the driver's failure to pay enough attention to stop in those six seconds, and you could also argue "but for" the engineers' decision to turn off the safety feature.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • jbay808 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    False positives are dangerous, because cars stopping suddenly and unexpectedly can be dangerous. The engineers probably were right to disable that, if the false positive rate was too high.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • akira2501 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      > The engineers probably were right to disable that, if the false positive rate was too high.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      This isn't a binary. They can also choose to stop the public test of a vehicle they can't adequately control.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • throwaway0a5e 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I think GP is talking about the OEM system that shipped with the car. Considering that their false positive rates are so low as to not annoy human drivers I don't see why they disabled it.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • GeorgeTirebiter 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          IF the engineers told the driver, "Hey, we disabled pretty much all the safety features on your vehicle because we can't figure out how to make them work -- so be Extra Careful!!!" --- well, maybe. But shifting the blame onto a low-wage worker to shield Corporate Hubris seems....wrong.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • true_religion 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            It's not any more responsibility than any other low wage work would have as a driver.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            You can put someone in a car without collision avoidance or even anti lock brakes, and it's okay to ask the driver to use their own skill and judgment instead.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • ogre_codes 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        If this wasn't a self driving car and it was just a normal driver texting while driving at night, it would never have gone to court. The driver would have said "I didn't see her", and the police wouldn't have even charged her. This is particularly true since the victim was homeless.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • onion2k 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Here in the UK we have a specific law that doubles the penalties for careless driving if you're using a phone. If you ran someone over you'd be charged with 'causing death by wreckless driving' and you'd probably spend some time in prison. Saying "I didn't see her" would be an admission of guilt.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • ogre_codes 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Wasn't considering the phone at all. In a lot of places in the US, using a phone is also a distraction likely to get you jail/ conviction. (In some places it's considered driving impaired).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The accident would just never have gotten the scrutiny it did. Unless the driver came out and mentioned they were using their phone, the whole incident would have just vanished. They certainly wouldn't have bothered getting a subpoena to check the drivers cell record.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • onion2k 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              You're suggesting that if a driver runs someone over and kills them the police wouldn't do a basic check like looking at the driver's cell phone record? It's no wonder people all over the US want to defund the police if they're that incompetent. That would not happen here in the UK.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • ogre_codes 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Just in general, if you ever want to kill someone in the US, run them over with a car. So long as nobody sees you do it and you aren't drunk or do something silly to make it obvious it was deliberate, it's unlikely you will be convicted.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                If they are on a bike, it's even easier to get away with.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • rossdavidh 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          From the NTSB report: "The vehicle operator’s prolonged visual distraction, a typical effect of automation complacency, led to her failure to detect the pedestrian in time to avoid the collision."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          In other words, while this person should not have been doing what she was doing, we can expect it to happen again if we let self-driving vehicles on the road again. But, Uber (who can afford a much better lawyer than the driver) was found not to have committed a crime. I think they were at least as negligent as the driver, in this case.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • itronitron 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The Volvo's emergency braking system would have prevented that accident if Uber had not deactivated it.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • delfinom 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              It also helps if Uber used quality vision cameras instead of whatever garbage they we're using and attempting to say "look at how unlit and dark the road was!!". Meanwhile it was a pretty well lit city streets when people visited it.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • MertsA 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                That footage was not what was used by the computer to do any vision augmentation. It was solely a dash camera separate from the self driving system. Uber's sensor platform was more than adequate.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • simon_000666 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              There's a good black mirror episode that sorta covers this : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smithereens_(Black_Mirror)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Is it the drivers fault? Is it the company that put them in a situation which makes it more than likely to happen? Is it big tech fault's for systematically addicting people to dopamine and nudging them into the belief that they can successfully multi-task without problem?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              There are a couple of open questions for me : Did Uber take the proper care to train and onboard this person and make it clear that their role was to be attentive at all times? Why did they disable the built-in autostop without a back-up? Why was there no system monitoring and alerting on the attentiveness of the driver? - This is surely easier in comparison to a fully automated vehicle.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I wonder whether if instead of checking a mobile phone, she had been distracted by lighting a cigarette how would this change the case?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              These are the types of legal grey zones we will see more and more of with increasing automation of transport, weapons etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              My own opinion is that ultimate culpability is with all three parties.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Thorrez 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I wonder if the Black Mirror episode was based on this crash.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • rbtprograms 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I think fault, specifically when it comes to litigation, is something that will end up holding back self-driving cars (at least in the USA). If there is an accident or someone is injured, who ends up getting sued? How does insurance resolve these claims?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Please note that I am not saying I think someone needs to get sued. I just think that the concept of liability is deeply ingrained in the American legal and insurance systems, and I almost forsee a future where we cannot come to terms with who is liable in different situations and it coming to preventing the adoption of and progression of self-driving vehicles.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • xtracto 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Reminds me of MYCIN health expert system from the 1970s which was quite good at diagnosing but ultimately failed because people would not know who to sue in the event of a misdiagnosis.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • kyleee 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    interesting note, thanks for sharing it.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • xtracto 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Expert systems where the previous iterations of what NeuralNets or Decision trees do today. They where hyper focused/trained in a specific domain. At that time NN where only an academic amusement given computer power.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Goes on to show that after all these years, we havent progressed in generalisation of artificial intelligence.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • baddox 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    This isn't new though, is it? Surely there is a history of cases where the driver could have avoided the accident and changes in the features and manufacture of the automobile could also have avoided the accident.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • throwaway0a5e 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      There's various liability schemes for civil suits to settle the issues of partial fault. The states vary in which one they use.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • rvnx 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Perhaps a solution would be a liability chain ? Get sued personally as the vehicle operator, and then sue the car manufacturer yourself ?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      This way people will be pushed to pick the safest cars, or to adapt their attitude when the self-driving functionalities are unsafe.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • singron 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        If manufacturers can be directly sued, then the cost will have to be incorporated into the cost of the cars. That being said, consumers already like being safe for their own benefit. And since safety is entirely in the hands of the manufacturer, consumers will probably be even more selective along this axis than currently.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        But at the end of the day, we all share the road together, so the government will regulate some minimum safety level that all cars must comply with in addition to civil liabilities.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • rhino369 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Should be the opposite. Companies would be incentivized to reduce risk if they alone face it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Consumers don’t have any real information on the risk between a Waymo or a Tesla. So they aren’t in a position to mitigate.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Further, you’d incentive the car companies to cut corners since someone else would pay for it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          We don’t even need a new legal framework for it. We could just apply products liability law.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • thelean12 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            This doesn't help if you go to jail for the actions of the self driving car. (Generally. I'm not talking about the specific case linked).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Also, consumers can't be trusted to pick the safest cars. Most consumers choose on price, not safety features.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • baddox 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              How do you define and determine whether a consumer "chose on price" or "chose on safety features"? Surely consumers consider both the price and the desirable features when they purchase a car, just like for every other purchase. I suspect that most consumers wouldn't buy a $100 car than has a 50% chance of exploding every time you enter it, and most consumer wouldn't buy a $500,000 car that was 5% safer than a $40,000 car.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • thelean12 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The point is that you shouldn't be able to sell or buy a $100 car that has a 50% chance of exploding every time you enter it. Or more to the point, you shouldn't be able to sell a shitty self driving system. The post I was responding to was basically saying "let the free market figure out which car has a better self driving system" which is a horrible way to go about it.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • rvnx 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I may have a solution then,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                In the future, let's imagine in 20 years, we may see "cars as a service", so essentially you can summon a Tesla, and the Tesla can bring you anywhere.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                In that perspective, isn't it clear that the liability is to the company that organised the trip ? In similar way to when you get carried by a bus, a taxi or a train ?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • bobthepanda 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  But then why would people prefer this over driving and operating a car themselves?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  One problem I‘ve always seen with the fleet model of widespread automated cars is that in 2020 cars are very much status symbols as much as they are modes of transportation. People own BMWs and Porsches to show off status first and get around second, and these types of people will always want “their” car.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • wongarsu 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    There will be cheap fleets and more expensive fleets, just as there is UberX, UberBlack and UberSelect. You could also imagine a BMW fleet that offers specific models only if you are an established frequent customer, so people can show off that they didn't just upgrade for this occasion but always travel in style.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Of course there are still plenty of edge cases where individual car ownership is nessesary, whether that's because too few cars of that type would be booked to make a fleet viable (Rolls-Royce) or because you are in a very rural area.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • bobthepanda 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      What you are describing is an automated taxi.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Rich people who want to call a chauffeured luxury car can do so in most major cities. Many of them do use such a service, but many of them also own expensive cars to show off their wealth.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • jaredmosley 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I would expect that their status would come from being able to hail more expensive cars. They would spend extra to have an automated Porsche, BMW, etc. pick them up.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • rvnx 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  It seems unfair due to the high costs though, meh quite a bad idea.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • thereisnospork 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Total driving liability for a 17-yr old male with a speeding ticket or two (worst case driver) is still insurable for a few hundred dollars a month. There's no material economic difference whether the insurance companies are engaged by the automakers, car owners, or car 'driver/passengers'.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • SilasX 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The law certainly makes a distinction, and bigger-pocketed defendants, in practice, are forced to pay more per wrongful death than 17-year-old Johnny with just an auto liability policy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Not saying it's right, but that's how the law currently works.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • thereisnospork 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Even if the liability does fall on the big players (imo it probably will) and autonomous cars are no safer than a 17 year old, at 10x that is only a few thousand a month in insurable liability - or much less than the cost of paying a cab driver a living wage + benefits.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Never mind that autonomous driving, once technically 'solved', is going to be a socioeconomic freight train that will have the resources to lobby and favorably influence legislation and judicial judgements.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • SilasX 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        It still doesn't work if the jury awards scale with the market cap of the SDC maker.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • ck2 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  If coder writes sloppy code that causes a car to mow someone down, or a dirty/broken sensor sends bad info, shouldn't there be liability if a company is going to sell "self driving" cars?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  As someone who has to run and bike on roads without sidewalks and use the side lane, I am not sure if self-driving cars are going to save me from the ever increasing number of drunk/high/distracted drivers or some bug is going to think I am okay to graze at high speed because just trash or something.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • dathinab 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The problem is if you have nothing to do it's really hard to stay concentrated even if you star on the road instead of your phone.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    It's like saying:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    - we drive for you so that you don't have to concentrate

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    - if you don't concentrate you might end up in prison

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    IMHO self driving cars are only viable if the car manufacturer is responsible for mistakes the (AI) driver they employ does.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Which sadly also means they would only be on abbo basis.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    It's a different thing for assistant, through it's not always clear when a car with assistant becomes a self-driving car.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • jmercouris 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      abbo is not English, many people will not know that you mean "subscription"
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • bryanrasmussen 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      So thinking about this "car going the speed limit even if conditions warrant going slower" thing, it makes me ask some questions:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. Are there any statistics on how often road conditions do not match speed limits? I mean governmental statistics.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. Are there any statistics on the same, but at night (I would assume speed limits are more likely to be higher than conditions warrant at night)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      3. If 1 and or 2 does Uber have data on how often drivers take over the car because of conditions not matching the posted speed limit, how often does that happen?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      4. Does Uber have any sort of policy regarding drivers who take over frequently? It just seems to me, given what I know of corporate mentality, that Uber as a whole (or some managers hoping to up their metrics) might penalize or get rid of drivers who took over 'too' frequently in comparison to other drivers. Obviously taking over is good for the machine learning, but you can't reward it either or people will start taking over when they shouldn't. I think there are probably incentives for the company to reduce the amount of drivers taking over.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Aside from that I was thinking - if you're a lawyer on HN and think this person is taking the fall somewhat unfairly, there might be arguments in this thread that would be worth sending to the lawyer representing the driver (his name is given in the article) - I of course mean worth it from a legal standpoint, because there might be expertise in some of these posts that the lawyer would not be aware of unless informed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • aronpye 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Isn’t the pedestrian that got hit at least partially responsible? They were crossing a live road, unlit, and not at a designated crossing. I get that the driver has a duty to mitigate / avoid an accident if possible, but the circumstances didn’t involve the driver running a red light or driving into a designated pedestrian area.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I’m curious as to whether her defence in court will fall along those lines, as it simply can’t be a case where she is entirely at fault? I would have thought it would be 50/50 liability as both parties had equal opportunity to avoid the accident. The driver should have seen the pedestrian, and the pedestrian should not have jaywalked.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I get that this may be an unpopular line of reasoning, but please comment if you disagree, don’t just downvote.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • j_walter 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          It has been awhile since this happened, but at the time I thought the video showed that the woman came out between two cars right before the Volvo hit her. Perhaps more information came out during the indictment, but there has been many cases in the past where even drunk drivers were cleared of the more serious charges when it was determined that even an attentive driver wouldn't have had enough time to avoid a crash. Will be interesting to see how this plays out.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • stefan_ 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            You mean the video of a dashcam Uber released to deliberately make it appear as if it was pitch-black and this women came into frame like a second before impact?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            No, indeed it turns out this is a very well lit, wide open area and your eyes would have had no problem seeing and predicting her path from many many feet away. As of course could the $$$ industrial cams Uber actually uses to inform its vision.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • bzb5 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Are you suggesting Uber maliciously edited the dashcam video to hide the jaywalker? Or that a better, human-readable (ie not raw sensor data) version of the video exists and Uber has not released it?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • molf 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Yes, it appears that Uber may have edited the video. Even if they didn't edit it and just used a very shitty dashcam, it's still incredibly misleading.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                There are no alternate versions of the dashcam available. However, there are comparisons of the same location made by other drivers that make it pretty clear this is a fairly well-lit stretch of road. [1] It looks nothing like the released Uber footage.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                [1]: https://arstechnica.com/cars/2018/03/police-chief-said-uber-...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • colejohnson66 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I think OP is referencing how cameras (especially the cheap ones used in dash cams) don’t do a good job in lowlight conditions.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • IfOnlyYouKnew 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                If you know you knowledge of the situation is limited, why do you feel the need to post about it without even a cursory attempt to verify? Or is this just an attempt to get away with spreading misinformation?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                In any case: according to police "[the victim] would have been visible to 85% of motorists at a distance of 143 feet (44 m), 5.7 seconds before the car struck [her]" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Elaine_Herzberg#Distr...)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • uptown 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  This article adds some more context to the lighting situation:


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • anoncareer0212 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    No, unfortunately, and the driver missed her over 1.5 lanes - it's extremely egregious https://youtu.be/51HQ5JXIvWw
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • thrownaway954 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    but is the whole point of autonomous driving is so you can be doing other things while the car is driving itself??? cause, you know, if you have to pay attention, then technically your driving.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    not for nothing but they are blaming the wrong person and it upsets me that they are charging them in the first place. i love how the company is not at fault yet the employee now has to pay the price. it sickens me how our justice system works. most of the time people get charged specifically cause the da wants to make a name for themselves and i see it with this case.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    btw... uber better have their entire legal team helping this person out, cause this could REALLY set a president to the point where it could kill this technology. imagine if self-driving cars really do become a thing and this happened to you.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    personally i think the biggest mistake we made as a society is putting too many automated feature in vehicles. drivers are becoming way too laxed and dependent rather than alert.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • foobar1962 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Uber disabled the Volvo's auto crash-avoidance feature. That should amount to some culpability.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Who is going to want work as autonomous vehicle backup drive now? I don't think it's reasonable to expect a person to be attentive 100% of the time, given the nature of the task (just sit and wait for a problem).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • seesawtron 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        >>Tempe police found in its investigation that Vasquez's personal cell phone had been streaming a TV show at the time of the crash.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I am curious how they figured this out. ISP providers were made to share the internet history for this device?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • thedudeabides5 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          No comment on her particular case, but interesting to think that buried in the End User License Agreement is fine print that says (to some effect):

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          "If you rely on our product for autonomous driving and accidentally kill someone, images from your car's internal cameras will be used against you in the court of public opinion, as well as the court of law."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Like, not sure this is something people who buy 1996 Toyota Camry really have to worry about.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • z3t4 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Good to know that the safety equipment in the car (camera etc) is there for the car company's protection and not the drivers and pedestrian protection.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • pvelagal 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I am wondering if the company responsible for self driving software/hardware be liable ? If not 100% , then to what extent?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • ping_pong 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                This is going to be what happens in the future, if Autopilot runs over a person. Tesla will do their best to prove that your hands weren't on the wheel, and they weren't at fault, just like when that Apple engineer died on 101.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • pvelagal 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I think insurance companies have a role to play here. They should refuse coverage when driver is not operating the vehicle 100% of the time. To them it is two drivers splitting responsibility. Insurance/ law enforcement must demand additional coverage, for self driving cars.. a separate coverage for “software driver”. In addition DMVs should test each self driving car for a special drivers license.. just as they test a regular driver.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • kag0 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The car was speeding before it hit the woman, and the driver was most probably watching TV before/as it happened. I can see how this would be bad press for self-driving cars, but this really seems like the error is on the driver. Maybe Uber failed to adequately communicate to her what her role was in the car, but otherwise it seems like pretty open and shut negligence.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • toast0 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  According to wikipedia, the car was traveling at 43 mph when it detected the pedestrian, and street has a posted 45 mph limit. There was no reported inclement weather, heavy traffic, or faulty lighting, so I don't see a reason to suspect traveling just below the speed limit should be considered speeding. Police had released a statement claiming the limit was 35 mph, although that's contradicted by the signs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  According to police, 85% of drivers would have identified the pedestrian 5.6 seconds away, and the Uber system identified it 6 seconds away. That should be enough time to stop safely and/or manuever around the pedestrian. So I really don't see a speed issue. The issue is that the Uber system did not react in a timely fashion, the human driver was not prepared to drive, and the Uber system test did not have appropriate safety controls.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • fernly 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The article say the collision happened at 39mph. Was that over the limit for that location?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    If so, the (design of the) automated car should be partly at fault. Self-drive cars should never exceed a speed limit.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The defense attorney can argue that if the car had gone at legal speed for the location, the driver would have had more time to react, while the victim might have survived a slower impact. To which the prosecutor might reply, the safety driver had responsibility to keep the speed legal, along with everything else.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • throwaway0a5e 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The speed limit is simply irrelevant from a safety perspective.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The number on a sign is just that, a number. Sure you can use it in the absence of all else but it should be tossed if there's any other information to use.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Self driving cars should be going as fast as whatever is normal for the rest of the traffic in those conditions and at that time. Creeping along at 55mph in the right line while 75mph traffic dodges you is anything but safe. Safety is achieved through homogeneous traffic flow and in practice that means not having a minority of traffic that's going very fast nor very slow nor a bimodal distribution.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Modern civil engineering doctrine is to set the speed limit based on traffic speed and to control the traffic speed with the road design/features so "but the law" holds about as much water as a net if the goal is safety.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      That said, the court cares about the letter of the law (as it should) so your proposed defense may in fact be beneficial.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Edit: Whether I care matters not.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • turtle-san 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        >The speed limit is simply irrelevant from a safety perspective.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        That depends on the type of road. On an interstate or highway your argument holds, but in urban and suburban areas, where there are side-streets, stop-signs, traffic lights, crosswalks, bicyclist, pedestrians that is not the case.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The faster a driver is going the less time they have to respond to new information, this is clear. Also I argue that with most cars going fast, and most cars are not giving the car in front of them enough space, that a car is less likely to slow down when they should (like when passing a bicyclist or making a turn across a crosswalk before they look who is in it or approaching it). I also argue, as does the commenter below me, that anomalous speeding vehicles can be dangerous to anyone that is using/crossing a road using a decision making processes that relies on cars going a certain speed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        My experience as a bicyclist on some roads, where there are 4 narrow lanes (2 in each direction), with a 30 mph speed limit but where the cars drive 40-45 mph, is that I can have two cars both pass me at the same time on my left, passing very close, because the car farthest on the right does not slow down and get into the left lane.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        My experience as a walker has cars turning into my crosswalk at high speeds all the time. Left-hand turns are particularly bad.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I would also argue that higher speed limits are more stressful for everyone involved. Not nice for bicyclists, pedestrians, exercisers, scooter riders, people going for a stroll, or sitting outside, or even living next to such a road. Not even nice for other drivers who just want to go the speed limit and not get ran off the road by impatient drivers. For this reason as well, quality of life in urban and suburban areas, do I argue that speed limits matter.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • darkerside 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          You may not care, but others do. That makes the anomalous speeding vehicle now difficulty to anticipate for crossing pedestrians.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • kfarr 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      ITT: Fundamental Attribution Error. Suggested reading: Normal Accidents by Charles Perrow
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • modzu 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        was the vehicle operator an uber employee testing this thing? or like a regular uber driver? the article doesnt say, but i do know she was transgender. how is that relevant
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • chasd00 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          i agree with the comments that say she's at fault. However, and hindsight is always 20/20, there should have been two people in the car.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • dbuder 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Uber knew their backup drivers would become distracted, then this woman did and now she has been indicted. All the blame rests on those at Uber and I bet they sit around drinking cognac, laughing about how bad it would be if it were someone with a rich family. Throw some blame to the governments who allowed this totally not ready technology into our public streets.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • ping_pong 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Is it necessary to describe the woman as a transgender woman?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I'm not an SJW by any means, in fact I'm the opposite because I feel facist leftists are ruining any rational conversations we are having.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              But I firmly believe in transgender rights, so if this person is a transgender female, shouldn't we just call her "female" instead of labelling her "transgender female" for the rest of her life?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • benmller313 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I think it might just have been needed to clarify potential confusion around her name.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • SilasX 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Exactly this -- it's even in the very same sentence that mentions it:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  >As internal video of the Uber car showed, Rafaela Vasquez, a 46-year-old transgender woman still legally known as Rafael Stuart Vasquez,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • aaron695 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I agree that's why they have here. Although often they will use some sort of code anyway.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    But independently, transgender people have used their medication as mitigating circumstances in murder trails before.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    So it is newsworthy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • jedberg 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I think they only did that to explain why her name doesn't match her legal name from the case.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • tyre 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I think in context of the article it was explaining why the name of the person who was originally reported has changed.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • tastygreenapple 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Female refers to biological sex. It would be more appropriate for this article to refer to her simply as a 'woman', but ideally just 'backup driver'.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • rudiv 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        When Ambani's driver went to jail in place of his son his family got crores. I wonder how much Uber's gonna give this person and/or their family?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • scott31 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Why should Uber give them anything?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • rudiv 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Why shouldn't Uber give them anything? Also, who's them?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • miduil 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          What a transphobic article omg, why to highlight the person's transgenderness? Why her deadname? So rude. (These are rhetoric questions, please don't answer this)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • 56264 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            You're being downvoted because this site is overrun with cis-male-het-white privileged shitlords. If anything, I'm more concerned that transwomen (I hate that we even still use that term instead of calling them what they are: women) can be singled out and made targets of hate and ridicule, and blamed for the engineering failings of $80 billion dollar companies. That is the real tragedy here. That if you're trans, you're easily scapegoated, like poor Rafaela Vasquez.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • miduil 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Of course you're getting down voted on HN for pointing out transphobia. :(
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • paul7986 310 days ago
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Disgusting that Uber isn't getting the same, along with the heads who spun/put this killing machine on the road.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Pays to be rich and well connected! Gross!!!