Before Uber pedestrian death, cyclists had warnings about self-driving cars

Phil Koopman, a Carnegie Mellon University robotics engineer and researcher who has studied automotive technology for years, counts self-driving car companies among his clients (though he cannot name specific brands he works with).

He says that the safety of self-driving cars around cyclists all depends on what companies are currently doing to gather data about them.

For example, he says cars could very well be learning about cyclists through careful simulation on a closed course. He is less optimistic, however, about a hypothetical scenario in which the cars are only learning about cyclists by driving on public roads.

“If you only collect your data by driving around, and you’re in a city without a lot of bicyclists,” he says, “you’re not going to be very good at identifying them.”

As of now, he says that he doesn’t know what the industry is actually doing to learn how to detect cyclists, “and I do self-driving car safety for a living, so that’s where we are.”