Top robotics expert on Uber crash questions whether sensors worked

“The car’s LiDAR (light ranging and detection laser system) should have picked the pedestrian up far before it hit her,” says Raj Rajkumar, who leads the autonomous vehicle research team at Carnegie Mellon University.

“Clearly there’s a problem, because the radar also should have picked her up throughout, she was moving,” he says. “Maybe it’s the sensors not working correctly or the hardware that processes it, or the software.”

Rajkumar’s Pittsburgh-based school, Carnegie Mellon University, has graduated top self-driving engineers including former Google car lead and Aurora founder Chris Urmson. Four of the senior leaders at, which Ford brought in-house at a cost of $1 billion, have ties to Carnegie Mellon. And when Uber first started its self-driving program in 2015, then-CEO Travis Kalanick raided Carnegie Mellon for dozens of its staffers.
elf-driving cars detect their surroundings with cameras, radar and LiDAR. Rajkumar says that while the car’s cameras appear to be of little value in the dark, its radar and LiDAR did not seem to behave as designed.

Uber declined to comment on Rajkumar’s observations and referred questions to the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the incident along with Tempe, Ariz. police. The NTSB also declined comment.