Video Shows Seconds Leading up to Fatal Autonomous Uber Crash

Mar 24, 2018, 13:37
Video Shows Seconds Leading up to Fatal Autonomous Uber Crash

Authorities released dash cam footage from a fatal Tempe, Arizona, auto crash Sunday night involving an Uber vehicle operating in autonomous mode that struck a bike-toting pedestrian.

Elaine Herzberg was walking a bike across a street outside a crosswalk in Tempe, Ariz., at about 10 p.m. when she was hit, police said.

Police have released footage from the moments before a fatal crash involving one of Uber's self-driving cars and a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. The other, an Uber operator monitoring the car's controls.

After Elain Herzberg's death in Arizona, Uber announced that it has suspended its self-driving vehicle program in four cities - Pittsburgh, Tempe, San Francisco, and Toronto - in response, reports NPR. They continued, "Our cars remain grounded, and we're assisting local, state and federal authorities in any way we can".

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The woman, Elaine Herzberg, 49, later died from her injuries.

It is believed to be the first time an autonomous vehicle has killed a pedestrian.

The video footage inside the cabin of the vehicle shows the driver - identified as Rafaela Vasquez by police - looking down at something before looking up again. While cameras do not perform well in the dark, radar and Lidar can work at night. She keeps looking down at something for several seconds in the moments before the crash. According to police, the vehicle, which also had a human pilot in the front, wasn't speeding, but didn't brake much.

Velodyne said it had not been in contact with Uber about the incident, but was in the process of preparing to speak to investigators. "This is a catastrophic failure that happened with Uber's technology". Hundreds of vehicles with automated driving systems have been on Arizona's roads.

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One question on regulators' minds will be why the sensors did not pick up on the presence of Herzberg, who would ostensibly have already crossed three lanes of traffic before arriving in the path of the Uber vehicle.

"This video screams to me there are serious problems with their system, and there are serious problems with their safety driver not being able to pay attention, which is to be expected", Missy Cummings, an engineering professor and director of the Humans and Autonomy Laboratory at Duke University.

Velodyne's Lidar sensors are used by a number of companies testing self-driving cars on public roads today. No charges have been filed yet against the operator of the vehicle or Uber as Tempe police continue to investigate the situation.

"In Arizona, autonomous vehicles have the same registration requirements as any other vehicle, and nothing in state law prevents testing autonomous vehicles", the agency said in a press release, according to the Phoenix New Times.

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An Uber spokeswoman, reached Wednesday night by email, did not answer specific questions about the video or the expert observations.

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