2018 in Review: 10 AI Failures

Published in
7 min readDec 10, 2018

Last December Synced compiled its first “Artificial Intelligence Failures” recap of AI gaffes from the previous year. AI has achieved remarkable progress, and many scientists dream of creating the Master Algorithm proposed by Pedro Domingos — which can solve all problems envisioned by humans. It’s unavoidable however that researchers, fledgling technologies and biased data will also produce blunders not envisioned by humans.

That’s why a review of AI failures is necessary and meaningful: The aim of the article is not to downplay or mock research and development results, but to take a look at what went wrong with the hope we can do better next time.

Synced 10 AI failures of 2018.

Chinese billionaire’s face identified as jaywalker

Traffic police in major Chinese cities are using AI to address jaywalking. They deploy smart cameras using facial recognition techniques at intersections to detect and identify jaywalkers, whose partially obscured names and faces then show up on a public display screen.

The AI system in the southern port city of Ningbo however recently embarrassed itself when it falsely “recognized” a photo of Chinese billionaire Mingzhu Dong on an ad on a passing bus as a jaywalker. The mistake went viral on Chinese social media and Ningbo police apologized. Dong was unfazed, posting on Weibo: “This is a trivial matter. Safe travel is more important.”

CloudWalk Deep Learning Researcher Xiang Zhou told Synced the algorithm’s lack of live detection was the likely problem. “Live detection at this distance is challenging, recognizing an image as a real person is pretty common now.”

Chinese billionaire Mingzhu Dong’s face on a public display screen.

Uber self-driving car kills a pedestrian

In the first known autonomous vehicle-related pedestrian death on a public road, an Uber self-driving SUV struck and killed a female pedestrian on March 28 in Tempe, Arizona. The Uber vehicle was in autonomous mode, with a human safety driver at the wheel.


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