Uber’s modified Volvo SUV detected a pedestrian crossing the street at the Tempe, Ariz., street intersection, but decided not to react immediately. According to an article in The Guardian, an investigative report released recently clearly shows that the Uber self-driving test car detected 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, but didn’t stop. The car was traveling at 40 mph in self-driving mode the night of March 18 when it crashed into Herzberg who was pushing a bicycle across the road. She later died from her injuries.
Driverless Car “Ignored” Pedestrian
Even though the car’s sensors detected Herzberg, its software, which decides how it should react, was tuned very much in favor of ignoring objects in its path, which might be “false positives,” such as plastic bags. What this essentially means is that Volvo did not react quickly enough to avoid hitting the pedestrian. The report also said the human safety driver was not paying close enough attention to intervene before the vehicle struck the pedestrian.
This fatal accident prompted Arizona to suspend Uber’s self-driving vehicle testing. The company later settled with Herzberg’s family. Both Uber and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are investigating the incident. Uber has said it is examining everything from system safety to training process for vehicle operators. This incident marked the first death attributed to a self-driving car in the United States.
Cause for Serious Concern
This report’s findings show exactly why our auto defect attorneys have been warning about driverless vehicles. These test vehicles are operating on our roadways in normal traffic conditions. However, companies like Uber don’t know how their vehicles will react in regular traffic. They are essentially putting the public at risk by getting these vehicles on our roadways before doing their due diligence and testing them properly. We are being used as guinea pigs for this groundbreaking technology, and that is absolutely unacceptable.
We hope this tragic incident raises red flags to city, state and federal government officials to slow down and thoroughly evaluate the safety of driverless vehicles before putting them out on our roadways. The technology must be thoroughly vetted and the kinks must be ironed out before they can hit the road. Uber certainly dropped the ball on this one, not only with inadequate vehicle testing, but lack of adequate training for their backup drivers.