Uber's fatal crash shows we should fix our cities, not our cars

Ann Santiago
March 24, 2018

Video of a deadly self-driving vehicle crash in suburban Phoenix shows a pedestrian walking from a darkened area onto a street just moments before an Uber SUV strikes her.

Yesterday, Tempe police released video from the fatal crash involving an Uber self-driving SUV and a pedestrian.

The video includes footage from a dashboard camera showing a view outside the auto, as well as a view of the operator employed by Uber sitting behind the wheel of the vehicle and take over if the autonomous system does not work as intended.

Uber has suspended self-driving tests in North America following the crash.

Video of the crash, showing the perspective of the driver and the pedestrian, was released by the Tempe police on Wednesday. You can see the shock on her face when she looks up and notices Herzberg at the last second. "Our cars remain grounded, and we're assisting local, state and federal authorities in any way we can", an Uber spokesperson said in a statement. Elaine Herzberg, 49, of Mesa, died in the collision.

"Tempe Police Vehicular Crimes Unit is actively investigating the details of this incident that occurred on March 18th", police said in a tweet.

Herzberg's death is the first fatality involving a fully autonomous test vehicle.

The SUV's driver - Rafaela Vasquez - is seen looking down in the moments before the crash.

"Clearly there's a problem, because the radar also should have picked her up throughout, she was moving", he says.

"Usually the argument is someone was negligent, and they didn't follow through with that duty, which is negligence", said Richelsoph. The company also hasn't said if all systems were functioning properly, or if it was testing a previously unreported sensor array.

Several companies, including Tesla, Apple, Google and Uber, are working on self-driving vehicle technology.

On Twitter, Smith explained that the victim should have been detected by the autonomous vehicles' sensors. "A human eye sees it much clearer", Alexander said, after watching the video.

Gov. Doug Ducey has been a supporter of self-driving technology, and signed two executive orders that helped bring both Uber and Waymo to Arizona. Behind the wheel was the driver, but to react to the appearance of women on the road he couldn't.

Prosecutors will now determine whether criminal charges are warranted though, at the time of the incident, Tempe Police chief Sylvia Moir indicated that Uber might not be at fault.

"The driver said it was like a flash, the person walked out in front of them", she said.

Uber said in a statement to this news organization that it believed technology "has the power to make transportation safer than ever before", and that it recognized its responsibility to contribute to public safety.

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