Uber Disabled Volvo City Safety Before Crash

    NOTE: the fatal Uber accident described here occurred in March, 2018. That’s about the same time that VolvoJo was moving from its old, free home at WordPress to its new, expensive “.com” address. Despite being “old news”, I’m still getting questions about it, which is why I decided to publish the following article. Enjoy!

Volvo got some bad PR last month when an autonomous Volvo XC90 owned by ride-sharing giant Uber struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona. The tragedy quickly raised questions about the state of the self-driving art, but Aptiv Plc., a company that supplies radar and optical hardware to both Volvo and Uber, moved quickly to reassure Volvo owners by stating, unequivocally, that Volvo’s advanced City Safety and Pedestrian Detection systems had been shut off by Uber before the accident took place.

“We don’t want people to be confused or think it was a failure of the technology that we supply for Volvo, because that’s not the case,” Zach Peterson, a spokesman for Aptiv Plc., told Bloomberg reporters by phone. He went on to explain that the standard “City Safety” driver-assistance system found in the Volvo XC90 production car “has nothing to do with” the Uber test vehicle’s autonomous driving system.

Aptiv is speaking up in defense of its hardware, obviously, to avoid being tainted by the fatality that occurred when Uber’s system failed to slow the SUV as 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg crossed the street pushing a bicycle. It’s worth noting, too, that Uber may have been following an industry standard practice of disabling a vehicle’s “built in” technology while testing its own, and that may be no way of knowing whether or not Volvo’s established suite of radar and camera-powered safety features would have reacted in time to save Herzberg’s life- but Intel, the manufacturer of the chipset that power’s Volvo’s systems, believes differently.

Intel Corp.’s Mobileye division has claimed that it tested its own software after the crash using in-car video of the Uber incident on a television monitor. Mobileye said it was able to detect Herzberg approximately one second before impact in those tests, despite the poor second-hand quality of the video relative to a direct connection to cameras equipped to the car. At the time that Bloomberg reported Intel’s findings, however, Uber declined to comment.

You can find out more about how the Volvo Pedestrian Detection system works in dark and low-light conditions in this video- published in July of 2013– below, then let us know what you think of Uber’s decision to shut off Volvo’s standard safety features in the comments section at the bottom of the page.


Volvo Pedestrian Detection in Darkness

Source | Images: Bloomberg, ABC News.

I've been in and around the car industry for over twenty years. Sometimes racing, sometimes selling, sometimes fixing- sometimes, even just washing!- but Cars and Trucks and Things That Go are what I'm all about.