Posts

Showing posts from April, 2022

OTA updates won't save buggy autonomous vehicle software

There is a feeling that it's OK for software to ship with questionable quality if you have the ability to send out updates quickly. You might be able to get away for this with human-driven vehicles, but for autonomous vehicles (no human driver responsible for safety) this strategy might collapse. Right now, companies are all pushing hard to do quick-turn Over The Air (OTA) software updates, with Tesla being the poster child of both shipping dodgy software and pushing out quick updates (not all of which actually solve the problem as intended). There is a moral hazard that comes with the ability to do quick OTAs in that you might not spend much time on quality since you know you can just send another update if the first one doesn't turn out as you hoped. "There's definitely the mindset that you can fix fast so you can take a higher risk," Florian Rohde, a former Tesla validation manager   ( https://www.reuters.com/article/tesla-recalls-idTRNIKBN2KN171 ) For now comp

Maturity Levels for Autonomous Vehicle Safety

Image
I've been on a personal journey to understand what safety really means for autonomous vehicles. As part of this I repeatedly find myself in conversations in which participants have wildly different notions of what it means to be "safe."  Here is an attempt to put some structure around the discussion: An inspiration for this idea is Maslow's famous hierarchy  of needs. The idea is that organizations developing autonomous vehicles have to take care of the lower levels before they might be able to afford at higher levels. For example, if your vehicle crashes every 100 meters because it struggles to detect obstacles in ideal conditions, worrying about nuances of lifecycle support won't get you your next funding round. To succeed as a viable at-scale company, you need to address all the levels in the AV maturity hierarchy. But in reality companies will likely climb the levels like rungs in a ladder. To draw the parallel to Maslow's needs hierarchy, if a company is

Cruise Stopped by Police for Headlights Off -- Why Is This a Big Deal?

Image
In April 2022 San Francisco police pulled over an uncrewed Cruise autonomous test vehicle for not having its headlights on. Much fun was had on social media about the perplexed officer having to chase the car a few meters after it repositioned during the traffic stop. Cruise said it was somehow intentional behavior. They also said their vehicle "did not have its headlights on because of a human error" (Source:  https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2022/apr/11/self-driving-car-police-pull-over-san-francisco )  The traffic behavior indicates that Cruise needs to do better making it easier for local police to do traffic stops -- but that's not the main event. The real issue here is the headlights being off. Cruise said in a public statement: "we have fixed the issue that led to this." Forgive me if I'm not reassured. A purportedly completely autonomous car (the ones that are supposed to be nearly perfect compared to those oh-so-flawed human drivers) that alwa