Uber declares itself devoted to safety
This weekend, Uber released a long and detailed "safety report" with some of their learnings and new plans after their fatal error. I have not had time to read it all yet due to travel, and will offer more detailed comments later. You can read the comments of the Washington post and many others online.
Even without reading it, I am sure the document will be contrite and declare a dedication to safety. And I am even confident that Uber will become much more dedicated to safety than before, since they have had more of a wake-up call that any other team.
They go into more details on the technical flaws they want to improve, including the latency in their perception system and of course the need for better emergency braking ability.
But even without reading it, I want to reiterate a point from before. Uber's failure came from two very different components, and both were bad but only one was the true failure. That was the failure to have good safety driving -- both in terms of Uber's protocol of managing and training safety drivers, and the performance of the particular safety driver they hired.
While Uber's technical systems performed particularly badly, because not seeing a pedestrian alone on an empty road is an unacceptable level of performance, all prototype vehicles regularly encounter issues where the intervention of a safety driver is needed to prevent an accident. All of them, particularly in their early years. Even the best ones, like Waymo. They would not be prototypes if this were not the case. Of course, they can differ in how often this happens and how severe the incidents are, but they will happen.
The main public safety concern revolves around whether the safety driver protocol and team of drivers is good enough to do those interventions when they are needed. Here, Uber failed badly. This includes failures in their protocol, but also includes technology failures, in that they failed to build system to alert an inattentive safety driver when needed, such as when emergency braking is needed, or if attention is insufficient. Uber outlines plans for some of this in their plan to return to the roads To get back on the road, Uber does not need to show they have a perfect car, because nobody does. They have to show they have a very good safety driving system and team. A system which understand that humans are not perfect either, and is ready for their mistakes as well as mistakes of the system.