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Trees caused problems for Uber’s self-driving software



Uber Advanced Technologies Group
group of self driving Uber vehicles position themselves to take
journalists on rides during a media preview at Uber’s Advanced
Technologies Center in Pittsburgh, Monday, Sept. 12,

Gene J.

The human brain is an extremely complex pattern recognition

Among the hundreds of millions of other daily tasks, there’s one
that’s extremely important for driving a car: distinguishing a
shadow from a real, physical object.

For a period of weeks during regular “triage” meetings of
Advanced Technologies Group (the division that handles
self-driving cars), where engineers and a vice president decided
what issues to prioritize in their workflow, tree branches and
their associated shadows were routinely mentioned,
a former employee told Business Insider.

Uber’s software “would classify them as objects that are actually
moving, and the cars would do something stupid, like stop or call
for remote assistance,” one engineer explained to Julie Bort as
part of her deep dive into the killing of an Arizona pedestrian
by an Uber self-driving car in March.

Read more: Uber
insiders describe infighting and questionable decisions before
its self-driving car killed a pedestrian

An Uber spokesperson denied that the car stops for tree branch
shadows, while adding that the car will stop
for actual tree branches in the road.

Other employees speaking to Business Insider said piles of leaves
would often confuse the car, and that the group had to place a
concerted effort into recognizing foliage.

Uber’s Pittsburgh-based Advanced Technologies Group employees
some 1,100 employees across the company. Sources tell Business
Insider the division is burning through $600 million per year, a
gap Uber is reportedly
trying to fill ahead of its hotly anticipated IPO next

Earlier this month, Uber self-reported third quarter financial
which showed widening losses and slowing growth at the
ride-hailing giant. 

You can read the full report, in which Uber insiders describe
infighting and questionable decisions before its self-driving car
killed a pedestrian, on BI Prime here.

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