Uber Self-Driving Car Had 6 Seconds to Avoid Fatal Pedestrian Crash

Lloyd Doyle
May 25, 2018

Instead, the Uber system anticipated that the human back-up driver would intervene.

The agency, which can make safety recommendations to other federal agencies, said information in the preliminary report can change as the investigation progresses and that no conclusions should be drawn from the report. But here's the big takeaway from the report; auto braking was disabled on the Volvo. However, the systems were disabled whenever the SUV was being operated in self-driving mode, according to NTSB.

Ducey prohibited Uber from continuing its tests of self-driving cars after Herzberg was run over, a ban that a spokesman said Wednesday remains in effect. The system, however, is not created to alert the driver.

Even though the vehicle saw the pedestrian six seconds before the collision, and recognized emergency braking was needed 1.3 seconds before, it didn't alert the driver that the pedestrian was seen or that emergency braking was needed.

Investigators concluded that Uber's array of sensors, cameras, and lidar equipment on the Volvo XC90 spotted Herzberg about 6 seconds before the impact, or more than 350 feet away from the auto, which was traveling at 43 miles per hour. "In the best interests of the people of my state, I have directed the Arizona Department of Transportation to suspend Uber's ability to test and operate autonomous vehicles on Arizona's public roadways".

In a desperate race to catch up to Waymo, Google's self-driving vehicle division on the cusp of commercializing self-driving taxis, Uber has found no shortage of controversy, including clashes with regulators in California, a not-at-fault collision that was nonetheless potentially avoidable, a videotaped incident of one of its cars blatantly failing to detect a red light, and most recently the deadly crash that lead to a nationwide halt to testing. It didn't have a specific comment on the NTSB report. It registered an unknown object, then a vehicle, then a bicycle, and tried to figure out the object's intended path. Uber's testing regime relied on the human backup driver to intervene when necessary.

The Volvo XC90 test vehicle that struck the pedestrian was equipped with Uber's autonomous driving systems, which disable the car's factory-fit automatic emergency braking function when the auto is in computer control mode in order to diminish erratic behaviour while the systems were under test.


It's not clear yet whether the backup driver or Uber will be charged with a crime. The operator is expected to be paying attention to the road. A short clip of the crash showed the vehicle operator was looking down shortly before the crash.

This report is preliminary and therefore does not contain a formal finding of fact concerning the cause of the crash, but it generally confirms what's been suspected since the event.

Less than 24 hours after the crash, Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir appeared to rush to judgment, suggesting the accident appeared to be unavoidable. She disclosed to NTSB that she was monitoring the self-driving interface.

Medina, who lives in Tempe, agreed that the crash site is well-lit, relatively speaking, and that Vasquez's familiarity with that stretch of road, where pedestrians often jaywalk, should have helped prevent an accident.

While it's still possible to get a traffic citation for hitting a pedestrian who wasn't in a crosswalk, Herzberg's actions will also be taken into account by prosecutors, as will Herzberg's toxicology results, Medina said.

Uber, Waymo, Tesla, and other companies are lobbying the government for weaker standards, putting profit over safety, he says.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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