A deadly self-driving Uber crash involving a pedestrian crossing the street in Tempe, Arizona, remains under investigation as new details continue to come to light.
Self-Driving Uber Crash Kills Pedestrian
On Sunday evening, March 18, an autonomous Uber Volvo XC90, traveling around 40 mph, struck 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg as she walked her plastic bag-laden bike across the street. She later died at a local hospital.
Earlier this week, the San Francisco Chronicle
published a story citing that Uber was “likely not at fault” according to its exclusive interview with Tempe Police Chief Silvia Moir. Moir stated that video from the vehicle’s front-facing camera showed the woman pushing her bike on a dark center median, then suddenly stepping out of the shadows and into traffic, about 100 yards from a crosswalk.
But video from the vehicle’s driver’s seat facing cameras released to the public by Tempe Police shows there is more to the story. It shows the backup Uber driver, 44-year-old Rafaela Vasquez, didn’t see what was coming because she was looking down in the moments before the accident. Uber has reportedly not said
whether Vasquez was using a cellphone. The released footage also shows a front-facing camera angle, but police cut out before the actual moment of impact.
Uber released its own statement regarding the footage:
Self-Driving Technology Still in Infancy
The driver’s apparent distraction is one issue. According to the Wall Street Journal
, Uber says it uses either one or two operators across its fleet depending on certain requirements. They are there to take control of the wheel when needed.
The crash is also calling self-driving technology, still in its infancy, into question. A professor at the University of Texas in Austin told the Wall Street Journal
the accident “appears to be a serious failure of the Uber perception systems.”
No charges have been filed. The National Transportation Safety Board is also investigating and all of Uber’s self-driving operations remain suspended.
Photo Credit: Uber