LIDAR Supplier Defends Hardware, Blames Uber for Fatal Crash [Updated]

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
lidar supplier defends hardware blames uber for fatal crash updated

Parts supplier Velodyne Lidar Inc. has come out against Uber Technologies following the release of video footage showing one if its autonomous test vehicles fatally striking an Arizona woman this week. Marta Thoma Hall, president of Velodyne, said she was confused as to why the autonomous SUV failed to see 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg crossing the street.

Velodyne, which supplies autonomous sensing equipment to many of the world’s automotive and tech firms (including Uber), is currently cooperating with federal investigators to determine what happened in Tempe, Arizona, on Sunday evening.

“We are as baffled as anyone else,” Thoma Hall wrote in an email to Bloomberg. “Certainly, our Lidar is capable of clearly imaging Elaine and her bicycle in this situation. However, our Lidar doesn’t make the decision to put on the brakes or get out of her way.”

Velodyne asserts that responsibility of ensuring the vehicle’s self-driving system is functioning effectively rests solely with Uber Technologies. Thus far, Uber hasn’t refuted the claims against it and has halted autonomous testing while investigators from local authorities and the National Transportation Safety Board probe the crash.

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

The Velodyne executive did weigh in on a matter that’s left a large portion of the public addled by saying lidar is totally effective, regardless of illumination. Over the past week, confused comments on social media flooded in, suggesting it was “too dark” for the self-driving vehicle to “see” the pedestrian. “However, it is up to the rest of the system to interpret and use the data to make decisions. We do not know how the Uber system of decision-making works,” she added.

“We at Velodyne are very sad, and sorry about the recent Uber car accident which took a life,” she said. “David Hall, company CEO, inventor and founder, believes the accident was not caused by Lidar. The problem lies elsewhere.”

Update: Based upon information gleaned from the Uber-Waymo lawsuit, Uber was primarily using off-the-shelf parts from Velodyne throughout 2017. Further investigation showed that the majority of the firm’s Volvo XC90 test vehicles are equipped with the HDL-64E lidar sensor. That model yields a 120-meter range. We’ve provided a photo example (below) illustrating raw imaging data from the unit. It is not known if that was the specific model being used on the vehicle involved in the fatal accident. But photos suggest something similar in design.

[Images: Uber Technologies ; Velodyne Lidar Inc.]

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  • W126 W126 on Mar 26, 2018 At approx 33 seconds is the crash site at night, it is very well lit. I did not make this video, but it is accurate compared to what I see with my own eyes when I travel through this intersection at night.

  • Cdrmike Cdrmike on Mar 27, 2018

    A crackhead hobo steps into a random portion of road in the middle of the night and gets run over. All development of technology must cease and be re-evaluated. Is this a great country or what?

  • Chris P Bacon I had a chance to drive 2 Accords back to back as rentals. The first was a base ICE LX. I was underwhelmed. The next was a Sport Hybrid. Like night and day. So much so that I ventured on to the grounds of my local dealer. Was looking for a Sport or Sport-L. Autotrader showed nothing within 250 miles. Dealer confirmed. Told me I'd have to "get on the list" for a delivery, and there was a non-negotiable $3k "market adjustment". I guess I'll have to hope to see one on the Emerald Aisle again.
  • DungBeetle62 I just this past weekend rented one of these for 5 days in SoCal and with $5.29 the best I could find for gas, this ride's wonderful combination of comfort and thrift was welcome indeed. My biggest real beef is with the entire Accord product line - with that angle of backlight, not having this as a 5-door hatch seems a real waste of space.
  • RICHARD I bought my wife the exact car in the picture 3 weeks ago. Acceleration is average for the class. Smoothness of the powertrain, competent ride dynamics, quietness, and comfort are definitely pluses. The styling is restrained for sure, but we weren't looking for a shouty car that doesn't deliver on the design statement. She drives about 8,000 miles per year, mostly around town. At the current rate, we expect to buy about 16 gallons of gas per month. This really is a car that appears to do everything well rather than excelling at a few things to the detriment of others.
  • Ajla "2010-2019 Borrego"The Borrego only had model years 2009 - 2011 in the United States. The Borrego/Mohave did exist in international markets beyond them but the NHTSA of the United States would not be handling a recall on those. It's annoying that apparently the manufacturer, the federal regulator, and automotive press didn't notice this.
  • SilverCoupe The last Accord I test drove was in 1978, but I ended up buying a VW Scirocco instead. The Accords have put on quite a bit of weight since, then, but then again, so have I!