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Sensor Maker for Self-Driving Uber Defends Tech in Crash

March 23, 2018
2 min read
Uber Experiments With Driverless Cars
Sensor Maker for Self-Driving Uber Defends Tech in Crash

The president of the tech company that manufactures laser sensors for self-driving cars is defending its product after an Uber autonomous vehicle with its sensors hit and killed a pedestrian in Arizona on March 18.

Marta Thoma Hall, president of Velodyne Linar Inc., said she was "baffled" why the lasers on the self-driving car didn't detect the pedestrian and cause the car to hit its brakes, Bloomberg reports. The Uber vehicle hit 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg as she crossed the street with her bike outside of the crosswalk around 10:00pm in Tempe, Arizona.

But, Thoma Hall says the company doesn't think its technology failed. “Certainly, our Lidar is capable of clearly imaging Elaine and her bicycle in this situation," Hall told Bloomberg. "However, our Lidar doesn’t make the decision to put on the brakes or get out of her way.” Rather, the rest of the autonomous system processes the sensor's data and makes the decision.

The company's lasers act as a radar to help self-driving cars process their surroundings, and the sensors can operate in the dark, too. Velodyne provides this technology to many auto makers testing self-driving vehicles. The overall functions of the self-driving technology is Uber's responsibility, Hall noted. Uber has stopped testing its autonomous car technology while investigations into the crash take place.

“In addition to Lidar, autonomous systems typically have several sensors, including camera and radar to make decisions,” Hall told Bloomberg. “We don’t know what sensors were on the Uber car that evening, if they were working, or how they were being used.”

Velodyne is assisting the National Transit Safety Board with its investigation into the fatal crash. Tempe police have preliminarily said they do not believe Uber is at fault for the crash.

Featured image by Getty Images