A self-driving Uber car struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona early Monday, sparking questions about the safety of self-driving vehicles.

Bart Selman is a professor of computer science at Cornell University, director of the Intelligent Information Systems Institute, and an expert on artificial intelligence safety issues. He says the tragic death in Arizona underscores the need to explore additional technologies to make self-driving vehicles safe, but that self-driving cars show great potential in reducing the overall number of driving fatalities.

Bio: https://www.engineering.cornell.edu/faculty-directory/bart-selman

Selman says:

“This is a very sad event. In fact, a fatal accident like this one has been a key concern for the developers of self-driving car technology. At this time we don't know enough about the incident to identify what part of the self-driving technology failed but quite like likely the pedestrian was in a very unexpected location and the sensor technology did not adapt the model of its environment quickly enough.

“In fact, self-driving technology cannot completely eliminate all accidents and the goal remains to show that the technology will greatly reduce the overall number of driving fatalities. I firmly believe that this goal remains achievable in part because the automatic sensing system of the car can track many more events more accurately and reliable than a human driver. Still, an accident like this calls for a re-evaluation of how to introduce and further develop the self-driving technology so that people will come to recognize and accept it as feasible and very safe.

“In particular, the cars may need a better ability to integrate information from different sensors. For example, the vision system of the car may miss a crucial aspect, such as a pedestrian unexpectedly crossing the road, but at that point, other sensors such as lidar for object detection should overrule the vision system and takes action to avoid a collision. That technology is feasible but requires further work.”

For interviews contact:
Jeff Tyson
Office: (607) 255-7701
Cell: (607) 793-5769

[email protected]

Cornell University has television, ISDN and dedicated Skype/Google+ Hangout studios available for media interviews.

- 30 -