Nvidia’s Jensen Huang cautions patience in judging Uber AV engineers

Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang faced a number of questions regarding Uber’s recent self-driving test vehicle accident, in which an SUV equipped with Uber’s autonomous technology struck and killed 49-year old Elaine Herzberg in Tempe, Arizona.

Earlier on Tuesday, Reuters broke the news that Nvidia was suspending its own autonomous testing programs around the world. Huang didn’t address the suspension on stage, but he did express sympathy for the victim during the keynote, which he reiterated during the Q&A.

“First of all, what happened is tragic and sad,” Huang said in response to a question about whether he believes the accident might impact appetite among other companies for developing autonomous technologies. “It also is a reminder of exactly why we’re doing this.”

Huang explained that in fact, as a result of the accident, he actually believes that investment will rise in self-driving system design, specifically because previously companies might have thought they could get away with meager or minimal investment in those areas, and instead will be realizing it’s the one area where they can’t compromise in favor of attempting to lower costs.

“I think that the world is going to, as a result, be much more serious about investing in development systems, which is good,” he said.

Meanwhile, Huang also urged caution regarding anyone being too quick to judge Uber’s engineers or their intentions and diligence.

Huang said that Uber has engineers who are “intensely serious about what they do,” and said that he “wouldn’t judge them” until we have more information about what occurred with the accident. “We don’t know exactly what happened,” he said. “And we gotta give them the chance to go and understand for themselves.”

On the subject of Nvidia’s suspension of its own program, and the motivation behind doing so, Huang said it was all about engaging an abundance of caution in an area where safety must always come first.

“We use extreme caution, and the best practices that we know in testing our cars,” he said. “First of all, it’s of course a safety concern, because our engineers are actually in the car. So it’s something we take incredibly seriously.”

He added that the reason for the suspension was “simple,” since the accident means that there’s now “a new data point” that has to be taken into consideration, and as “good engineers,” Nvidia must “wait to see what we can learn from the incident” before continuing testing activities.