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

    https://youtu.be/CRW0q8i3u6E 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?

  • MaintenanceCosts We hear endlessly from the usual suspects about the scenarios where EVs don't work as well as gas cars. We never hear the opposite side of the coin. From an EV owner (since 2019) who has a second EV reserved, here are a few points the "I road trip 1000 miles every day" crowd won't tell you about:[list][*]When you have a convenient charging situation, EV fueling is more convenient than a gas car. There is no stopping at gas stations and you start every day with a full tank.[/*][*]Where there are no-idling rules (school pickup/dropoff, lines for ferries or services, city loading, whatever else) you can keep warm or cool to your heart's content in your EV.[/*][*]In the cold, EVs will give you heat from the second you turn them on.[/*][*]EVs don't care one bit if you use them for tons of very short trips. Their mechanicals don't need to boil off condensation. (Just tonight, I used my EV to drive six blocks, because it was 31 degrees and raining, and walking would have been unpleasant.)[/*][*]EVs don't stink and don't make you breathe carcinogens on cold start.[/*][*]EV maintenance is much less frequent and much cheaper, eliminating almost all items having to do with engine, transmission, or brakes in a gas car. In most EVs the maintenance schedule consists of battery coolant changes and tire maintenance.[/*][*]You can accelerate fast in EVs without noisily attracting the attention of the cops and every passerby on the street.[/*][/list]
  • MaintenanceCosts Still can't get a RAV4 Prime for love or money. Availability of normal hybrid RAV4s and Highlanders is only slightly better. At least around here I think Toyota could sell twice the number of vehicles that they are actually bringing in at the moment.
  • Tree Trunk Been in the market for a new Highlander Hybrid, it is sold out with order time of 6 months plus. Probably would have bit the bullet if it was not for the dealers the refuse to take an order but instead want to sell from allotment whether it fits or not and at thousands over MRSP.
  • AKHusky The expense argument is nonsense. My mach e was $42k after tax credit. Basically the same as similarly equipped edge. And it completely ignores that the best selling vehicles are Rams, F150s, and Silverados, all more expensive that a bolt, MAch e or ID4. As an owner, I'd say they are still in second car territory for most places in the country.
  • Johnster I live in a red state and I see quite a few EVs being purchased by conservative, upper-class Republicans (many of them Trump-supporters). I suspect that it is a way for them to flaunt their wealth and that, over time, the preference for EVs will trickle down to less well-off Republicans.
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