Chipmaker Nvidia Stops Self-Driving Tests After Uber's Fatal Crash
The fallout from the fatal crash involving an autonomous Uber vehicle continues. Nvidia, which supplies chips for Uber's self-driving cars, said it's temporarily suspending all of its self-driving tests on public roads to learn more about [the] crash in Arizona, a company spokesperson told Recode.
"The accident was tragic," Nvidia spokesperson Fazel Adabi said in a statement. "It's a reminder of how difficult SDC technology is and that it needs to be approached with extreme caution and the best safety technologies." SDC refers to self-driving cars.
Other self-driving companies have also temporarily suspended their testing, including Toyota and nuTonomy, which is developing self-driving software. Uber halted all of its testing immediately after the crash.
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey yesterday suspended Uber's self-driving tests in the state indefinitely. He sent a letter to Uber saying the company failed to comply with the expectation that public safety be the top priority for the companies that operate self-driving cars on Arizona roads.
"In the best interest of the people of my state, I have directed the Arizona Department of Transportation to suspend Uber's ability to test and operate autonomous vehicles on Arizona's public roadways," Ducey wrote in his letter. "Arizona will not tolerate any less than an unequivocal commitment to public safety."
It's a complete about-face for Ducey, who welcomed Uber into the state with open arms after the California Department of Motor Vehicles revoked the ride-hail company's vehicle registrations. The DMV said Uber did not properly register the vehicles as autonomous test cars.
In Arizona, Waymo continues to test and operate vehicles with and without safety drivers. Ducey has long been friendly to autonomous technology and issued an executive order to establish a self-driving vehicle oversight committee in 2015.
City of Boston officials have also temporarily suspended testing.
As companies and regulators alike respond to the self-driving-related pedestrian death of 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, the National Transportation Safety Board as well as the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and local Arizona police are continuing their investigation into the crash. Fault has yet to be determined, but the fallout has been brisk.
Waymo CEO John Krafcik said he is confident the company's technology would have been able to handle the situation, based on the video of the crash that local Arizona police made public.
"Really all that we can say is based on our knowledge of what we've seen so far ... and our own knowledge of the robustness that we've designed into our systems. ... In situations like that one - in this case of a pedestrian or a pedestrian with a bicycle - we have a lot of confidence that our technology would be robust and would be able to handle situations like that one," Krafcik said at the National Automobile Dealership Association conference.
We've reached out to Uber for comment.
Advocacy groups like Consumer Watchdog have already called for a national moratorium on self-driving tests and called on the NHTSA to collect more data about the technology before making changes to federal guidelines for testing autonomous vehicles.
Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, who has previously voiced his skepticism about the self-driving bill being considered in the U.S. Senate, said the crash indicated that the technology is far from ready.
"Congress must take concrete steps to strengthen the AV START Act with the kind of safeguards that will prevent future fatalities," he said in a statement on Monday. "In our haste to enable innovation, we cannot forget basic safety."
Both federal and local regulators will continue to be forced to confront the many questions over how to regulate this technology as consumer trust in it gradually deteriorates.
© 2018 Re/Code under contract with NewsEdge/Acquire Media. All rights reserved.
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