Software behind self-driving Uber crash did not recognize jaywalkers

This video grab made from dashcam footage released by the Tempe Police Department shows the moment before the collision of ride-sharing Uber’s self-driving vehicle and a pedestrian in the city of Tempe, Arizona on March 18, 2018. (Tempe Police Department/AFP)
Updated 06 November 2019

Software behind self-driving Uber crash did not recognize jaywalkers

  • The car’s software spotted the 49-year-old woman nearly six seconds before the vehicle hit her
  • The system at no time ‘classified her as a pedestrian’ but rather considered her an object

NEW YORK: An Uber self-driving car that struck and killed a woman last year in Arizona failed to recognize her as a pedestrian because she was jaywalking, US transport regulators said Tuesday.
The woman had been crossing the street “at a location without a crosswalk; the system design did not include a consideration for jaywalking pedestrians,” the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said in a statement.
In a preliminary report, the NTSB had already determined that the car’s software spotted the 49-year-old woman nearly six seconds before the vehicle hit her, as she walked across the street at night with her bicycle in Tempe, a suburb of Phoenix.
According to the latest report, which was issued ahead of a November 19 hearing to officially determine the accident’s cause, the system at no time “classified her as a pedestrian” but rather, considered her an object.
When the software determined that a collision was imminent approximately 1.2 seconds before impact, it suppressed any “extreme braking or steering actions” to reduce the potential for erratic vehicle behavior.
It did, however, produce “an auditory alert to the vehicle operator as it initiated a plan for the vehicle slowdown.”
Following the March 2018 accident, Uber suspended its autonomous driving testing in all locations in the United States but resumed the program several months later.
The company has assured the NTSB that new technology in the cars will correctly recognize pedestrians in similar situations and trigger braking more than four seconds before impact.
According to the report, 37 crashes involving Uber automatic test vehicles operating in autonomous mode occurred between September 2016 and March 2018, excluding the Arizona crash.


Saudi women researchers win major science award

Altalhi’s research in donor-less organ transplants is designed to counter end-stage organ failure, a leading cause of death worldwide. (supplied)
Updated 12 November 2019

Saudi women researchers win major science award

  • Each of the researchers was awarded a grant in recognition of their outstanding achievements
  • According to the Saudi Cancer Registry, leukaemia is the fifth most common cancer among both men and women

DUBAI: A passion for science and years of hard work has put two Saudi women researchers in the spotlight following their groundbreaking studies on organ transplant alternatives and stem cell treatments. 

Wafa Audeh Altalhi and Asma Al-Amoodi were among the six female scientists honored at the sixth edition of the L’Oreal-UNESCO for Women in Science Middle East Fellowship awards in Dubai.

Each of the researchers was awarded a grant in recognition of their outstanding achievements. Altalhi received €20,000 ($22,000) in the postdoctorate researchers category, while Al-Amoodi received €8,000 in the PhD students category.

The 21-year-old initiative empowers women in science and highlight the value of their achievements, while promoting gender equality. So far the program has supported more than 3,100 women and rewarded 107 laureates, granting doctoral and postdoctoral fellowships in 117 countries.

Altalhi’s research in donor-less organ transplants is designed to counter end-stage organ failure, a leading cause of death worldwide.  

“The transplant waiting list has been increasing in recent years, putting immense pressure on patients in terms of hospital expenses. My research uses a patient’s own stem cells to build replacing organs as an alternative to allogenic organ transplants,” she said.

Altalhi’s focus is on bioengineering patient-specific and donor-less organs by making specialized tissue and organs ready for transplant when needed.

“Awards like this provide a platform where candidates and their contributions are examined by experts. I believe that this is important to promote healthy competence in the scientific field and push innovation forward,” Altalhi said.

Before becoming a science laureate, Altalhi attended Umm Al-Qura University, where she completed a bachelor’s degree in laboratory medicine.

She went on to complete a master’s degree in cellular and molecular medicine, followed by a PhD in laboratory medicine and pathobiology at the University of Ottawa and Toronto in Canada.

“I am now doing my postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University and the Center for Organ Bioengineering at Massachusetts general hospital,” she said.

Meanwhile, furthering research in stem cell treatments for cancer patients is Al-Amoodi’s top priority.

She is convinced that more can be done to treat hematological diseases through stem cell research.

According to the Saudi Cancer Registry, leukaemia is the fifth most common cancer among both men and women.

With limited therapy options and a high number of patients in the Kingdom, Al-Amoodi is determined to improve the efficiency of bone marrow transplants through her research.

“This award is about overcoming all limitations and challenges I have faced. The award has turned my dream to do something for our society into reality,” she said.

Al-Amoodi has a bachelor’s degree in medical laboratory technology and a master’s degree in biology. She plans to pursue her PhD studies in stem cell adhesion mechanism.