By on March 19, 2018

uber volvo

In the evening hours of March 18th, a pedestrian was fatally struck by a self-driving vehicle in Tempe, Arizona. While we all knew this was an inevitability, many expected the first casualty of progress to be later in the autonomous development timeline. The vehicle in question was owned by Uber Technologies and the company has admitted it was operating autonomously at the time of the incident.

The company has since halted all testing in the Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Toronto, and greater Phoenix areas.

If you’re wondering what happened, so is Uber. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has opened an investigation into the accident and is sending a team to Tempe. Uber says it is cooperating with authorities.

According to ABC 15 Arizona, 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg attempted to cross a multilane road outside of the crosswalk around 10 p.m. Sunday night and was struck by a self-driving Volvo XC90 near the intersection of Mill Avenue and Curry Road. While there was someone behind the wheel of the SUV (Uber stipulates its test vehicles have a safety driver), Tempe Police confirmed the vehicle was operating autonomously at the time of the crash.

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi tweeted on the matter Monday afternoon. “Some incredibly sad news out of Arizona. We’re thinking of the victim’s family as we work with local law enforcement to understand what happened,” he said.

While Uber has experienced incidents in the past, including a highly publicized wreck last year, this is the first time one of its autonomous vehicles has been involved in a fatal accident. It’s also the first time a pedestrian has been killed by a self-driving vehicle.

The NTSB takes a special interest in autonomous crashes. Last year, it partially faulted Tesla’s semi-autonomous Autopilot system for a fatal crash in Florida in 2016. Since then, it has assumed a cautionary tone on the technology — enthusiastic about the possibility of saving lives, but clearly concerned the sector is not being regulated or developed safely enough. It’s in direct opposition to the Department of Transportation, which has opened the door for automakers to test on public roads with only a modicum of regulatory activity.

Which brings us to the million-dollar question: how will this tragic situation affect the development of autonomous technology? Companies have flocked to Arizona to test their self-driving vehicles. General Motors and Waymo both test their autonomous fleets there, the latter without safety drivers, and this could create additional pressure from local government to buckle down on safety. Up to this point, the state said it wouldn’t hinder companies with new regulations.

Other states haven’t been so forgiving. After a self-driving Uber vehicle ran a red light in San Francisco, California faulted the company for operating in the state without seeking regulatory approvals. A bureaucratic row ensued over the right to test its vehicles in the state and the DMV attempted to halt the firm from testing. Uber continued to do so without a permit, but was eventually granted one on March 8th of 2017.

Questions of accountability regarding self-driving cars are likely to crop up as a result of the fatal accident in Tempe. While the safety driver theoretically should have been able to intervene, Uber’s technology is supposed to mitigate situations like this without human involvement. There is also a chance the crash couldn’t have been avoided at all. Images of the car show moderate damage to the vehicle’s front end, indicating there may not have been enough distance for it to stop after Herzberg entered the road. Of course, the alternative is that the sensors did not see the woman at all, and the vehicle continued along its course as if no obstacle was present.

The NTSB claims it will provide details once the investigation begins in earnest. Expect updates as the story progresses.

[Image: Uber Technologies]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

89 Comments on “Self-Driving Uber Vehicle Fatally Strikes Pedestrian, Company Halts Autonomous Testing...”


  • avatar
    danio3834

    Judgment Day is upon us. Instead of nukes, they’re using cars.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I hope Ms Herzberg’s family lawyers up well, and doesn’t settle quietly. The question of liability will still be made even though it seems obvious now.

    “There is also a chance the crash couldn’t have been avoided at all.”

    I agree, but if that’s the case, AV companies have no business making their outsized claims of efficacy and self-absorbed liability.

  • avatar
    tylanner

    This half-assed autonomous driving craze is completely undermining decades of transportation safety efforts. The imbalance between a single victim and the collective resources of a company like Uber or Google can only result in one outcome…and it isn’t good for us.

    Having a safety driver in a beta test vehicle is woefully insufficient to assure our safety. There is nothing on a public road that you cannot test on a track/testing gauntlet…

    This is a simple race-to-market road-grabbing exercise by huge, multinational corporations that will continue to cost lives…

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    “outside of the crosswalk”…this is something that’s going to have to be considered. In my city, whether it’s downtown or a residential neighborhood, many people cross anywhere they please. Some of these folks actually seem to dare drivers to hit them. This town can’t be an isolated case, autonomous vehicles will have to improve or people will have to obey pedestrian rules. Who will conform first?

    • 0 avatar
      derekson

      Obviously the plan from the tech company side is just to put a de facto death penalty for jaywalking into action and let the problem take care of itself.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      This is what scares me about these vehicles – they’re probably “programmed” with the assumption that every person and other vehicle they encounter is following the rules. But we all know that’s not always the case.

      • 0 avatar
        whynotaztec

        Good point. In the Boston area many rules are broken while driving. However it is expected and does help keep traffic moving. I think an autonomous vehicle would be confused. However if it had AI then it would learn…..and eventually go into a rage.

        • 0 avatar
          Sub-600

          The arterial in Utica, NY is like that, bumper to bumper at 85 mph, but it works. Pedestrians are like baseball players attempting to steal a base when they jaywalk, they take a lead off the curb, sometimes they scurry back, sometimes they head to second base. They just put in a new pedestrian bridge, too many runners were getting picked off.

        • 0 avatar
          haroldhill

          +1000

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        “This is what scares me about these vehicles – they’re probably “programmed” with the assumption that every person and other vehicle they encounter is following the rules. But we all know that’s not always the case.”

        If you look at the actual accident rates for autonomous cars, they’re many times those of operator-driven cars. The excuse is always that the other driver is at fault, even though that would be one monument of a coincidence when autonomous cars are in five times as many crashes as people are per mile driven. Supposedly the reason they’re in so many crashes is because they always assume the worst about pedestrians and potential cross traffic, slamming on their brakes and getting rear ended by people who knew they had no reason to stop. This Uber pedestrian cull may be the result of an effort to make autonomous cars cause fewer accidents, oddly enough.

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      When I am a pedestrian, never put my self on a collision course with any vehicle. It is suicidal to trust that whatever entity (silicon or carbon based) is controlling the vehicle will indeed brake to avoid hitting me. Anybody here care to offer counterpoints, feel free, but I am quick to blame pedestrians being for being careless / daring / foolish in the presence of lethal machinery.

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      When I am a pedestrian, never put my self on a collision course with any vehicle. It is suicidal to trust that whatever entity (silicon or carbon based) is controlling the vehicle will indeed brake to avoid hitting me. Anybody here care to offer counterpoints, feel free, but I am quick to blame pedestrians being for being careless / daring / foolish in the presence of lethal machinery.
      Even if I literally have the legal right of way, I am very wary. One can be “right” and be dead right.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve been ticketed for jaywalking. I went to court because I didn’t think the policeman would show up, but he did. The judge explained that even though it seemed like a trivial offense to me, the reason jaywalking is on the books is to establish liability. For any accident to occur, someone must have broken a rule of the road; if you hit another car then you were driving outside the rules for the conditions or just weren’t paying attention, both are your fault. If you hit a pedestrian in an intersection, again it is your fault because there are specific rules of right of way for the pedestrian. If you hit a jaywalker then they are at least partially at fault because they have broken a rule.

      So if I dash out to catch the bus in front of a Ferrari going at 25, then it’s me who pays for their expensive hood replacement and paintwork and not them paying for my broken legs.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        And if the speed limit was 24.99, or the Ferrari was still moving 0.01mph at a prior stop sign instead of taking the time to look….

        The sort of nonsensical pseudo reasoning the judge employed, is why we are stuck in an ever more intrusive and sclerotic dystopia. Unless whatever “wrong” you did, warrants, at a minimum, assembling a jury of twelve of your peers, who find you guilty; you didn’t do anything wrong. Mindlessly “assigning” “liability” for an outcome where the vast majority of variables are simply complexity-emergent sh%&%&t-happens, serve no other purpose that enriching useless ambulance chasers and give those of privilege the power to rule arbitrarily.

  • avatar
    aajax

    There’s not much that can prevent a fatality if someone walks out into the braking zone of a moving vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Correct. Accidents are going to always going to happen whether it is a human or a computer at the controls. The question is which is safer? I willing to bet on the computer provided the sensors and programing is up to the task. Humans in general are terrible drivers, they get distracted way too easily (myself included). The only advantage a human has (for now) is being extra careful in certain situations because they have learned from experience. IE: knowing a intersection is particularly crazy at rush hour you slow down ahead of time. However I assume software and databases will include such “hot zones” where special logic is applied as these systems become more robust.

      • 0 avatar
        Ar-Pharazon

        You neglect the fact that all humans have a theory of mind that they apply to other humans. I see you walking down the street, and I jump into your head (as best I can) for a moment and make an assessment of what you will do next. I’ll react much differently to you depending on whether you appear drunk, or distracted by your phone, or actively looking for a taxi, or throwing a baseball to your buddy.

        This is a step beyond understanding when an intersection is busiest, or has the most accidents. And it will be a long, long time before our cars come with a theory of mind that can help them make these kind of decisions. Until then, it’ll be strictly physics.

        • 0 avatar
          derekson

          “And it will be a long, long time before our cars come with a theory of mind that can help them make these kind of decisions.”

          I guess never is technically.a “long, long time”…

      • 0 avatar
        ixim

        Wrong. I, a human driver, try always to watch for something like this – a pedestrian walking a bike might step into the road; a car leaving a driveway up ahead; there are many such situations; my foot leaves the gas and hovers over the brake. Maybe put that in the program?

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      @aajax: If you can read body language, you can figure out that someone is about to step in front of a car. It’s something that separates novice human drivers from seasoned veterans – and its something AVs must be able to do before the technology is really ready. Think about it next time you are driving. You’re probably constantly reading your environment and predicting what might happen next.

      • 0 avatar
        ttacgreg

        Interesting point about reading body language. This unfortunate person may consciously or not used body language that had worked with human drivers to give way to them, but the silicon driver was incapable of this.

        • 0 avatar
          iNeon

          You have time to read pedestrian body language?

          Mostly I’m just trying not to run them over because the 1/2 second yellows and their impatience have put them in the center of the intersection before I’ve even stopped the car.

          • 0 avatar
            turf3

            If you see a clump of pedestrians who are clearly anticipating the light changing, maybe even already taking that first step to move off the curb, why aren’t you already slowing down and covering the brake?

        • 0 avatar

          While the car cannot read “body language” certainly the “safety driver” – if alert at the time in the vehicle – could have. We do not have the whole story as to what truly happened. Did the safety driver make an assumption the car would stop in time? Was there time for the safety driver to intervene? Was the safety driver not fully engaged? Did the woman appear “suddenly” in front of the car? Were the cars sensors fully operational at the time of the accident? It will be interesting to watch this story as more information is available.

      • 0 avatar
        ernest

        Unless, of course, we’re talking about children or teenagers. At those ages, anything is possible, and the least logical outcome is often the most likely course of action. How many of us have seen a ball bouncing down a neighborhood street and instinctively jammed on the brakes… even though no child is in sight at the moment? (but knowing there likely will be at any second) Just one example.

        IMO, the expectations have gotten far ahead of actual self-driving technology.

      • 0 avatar
        Flipper35

        Just watching their head swivel and the expression on their face can tell you a lot about what they are trying to do ie: Is she crossing the street or moving to get into the drivers side of the parked car she is next to.

  • avatar
    phila_DLJ

    Clearly the pedestrian’s fault. They must’ve taken their hands off of the steering wheel.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    If the guy whose only job is to stop the car from hitting something can’t do it, what’s going to happen to all of us regular bozos who are going to be sleeping or watching TV behind the wheel of our autonomous cars.

    Reminds me of how we used to have autonomous subway trains in DC, until about 9 years ago when the “driver” didn’t stop one train from ramming into the back of another, killing 8 people. Now we don’t have autonomous trains anymore.

    • 0 avatar
      gottacook

      I used to commute on the DC Metro Red Line where the June ’09 crash occurred. Thankfully I work at home these days. Nearly 9 years have gone by and automatic train control has not been restored; no one has been able to say “Now the system is finally safe to turn on again” – and Metro, as is obvious, is a system that runs ON TRACKS.

      • 0 avatar
        240SX_KAT

        That’s just their own incompetence.
        In Vancouver the SkyTrain has been full automated since its inception in 1986 without those kind of issues.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          The monorail at DisneyLand in Anaheim, CA, was fully automated when I was there in the early sixties.

          Really weird, too. If you held the door open, a metallic voice would admonish you with, “Please stand clear of the door” or words to that effect.

          If you persisted, a pretty cast member would jump on the train with you to keep an eye on you.

          But there was no one “driving” the monorail, ’cause you could sit all the way up front and look out the front windows.

        • 0 avatar
          TMA1

          The DC Metro moves 7x as many people per day as Vancouver’s system. As usage grows, so do systemic failures. Do you expect all autonomous vehicles to be as carefully monitored by people who have never changed their own oil?

          My favorite quote from a Vancouver derailment story: “A brake caliper fell onto the track and was large enough to derail the next train that passed by. Here lies the Achilles heel of automatic transit systems, they can’t see obstructions on the track and proceed to hit them, sometimes with disastrous results.”

  • avatar
    sirwired

    Certainly a self-driving car assuming that pedestrians will never jaywalk would be a foolish assumption. I guess the investigation will determine if the accident could have been avoided had a human been driving. One would hope the car stored appropriate video footage.

    Certainly pedestrians can, and do, step out in front of cars with no chance for the driver to avoid an accident. But I can certainly imagine scenarios where a human might be able to spot somebody about to come out from behind a car where a computer might have trouble spotting the same situation. (A LIDAR unit can’t do things like see through car glass to spot a pedestrian about to emerge.)

    I know self-driving cars have come a long way, but I think it’s still a ways off before they can engage in defensive driving better than humans.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Exactly. Hitting the “super cruise” is one thing on an Interstate highway where all you have to deal with is other cars that presumably follow the same rules. It’s something else entirely when you factor in busy intersections full of people.

      I just don’t trust this technology in the latter case…not with my car, and not when I’m the pedestrian.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        @freedmike: At some point, we’ll have the sensor technology along with improved artificial intuition capability. It’s not there yet. Not sure how long it will take.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          And someday we’ll probably have warp drive too, you know?

          • 0 avatar
            Sub-600

            And cloaking devices. Although on EVs they may use too much battery life and you might not get back to the neutral zone. Don’t even think about using the plasma weapon in that case either.

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            Here’s the link for the sensors. It’s trillion frames per second photography and has a long way to go. There is also technology to pull reflexions off of various objects and construct an image.

            http://web.media.mit.edu/~raskar/trillionfps/

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            @sub-60: Although on EVs they may use too much battery life

            Actually, power consumption is an issue, but we use a separate battery. The AI systems we’re using not only consume massive amounts of power, they run hot and take up a lot of space. We use a separate battery from the traction systems, so it’s not a demand on the vehicle’s traction battery.

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            Almost forgot, there is ultra-wideband technology that can penetrate walls. I’m actually supposed to be getting a UWB sensor next month I think.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultra-wideband

          • 0 avatar
            WheelMcCoy

            “And cloaking devices.”

            Already available:
            http://www.ytechnology.com/2017/03/on-internet-no-one-knows-youre-targ.html

            But you have to de-cloak at a red light or risk getting rear-ended.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus

            I agree with your statement above Mike.

            Maybe we will have matter-energy converters soon, then we will just call for Scotty to beam us to work. No commute, no risk of getting hit. Slight risk of getting merged with your co-worker, though, or materalizing in the African desert instead of the office. Meh, life, amirite?

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus

            @wheels, lol being cloked, nobody will see you run the red light! From the episode The Pegasus, evidently you can pass through matter while cloked.

        • 0 avatar
          Deontologist

          What about bouncing the radar off roads to help detect obscured pedestrians, mcs? I read that Bosch is doing that. Is that viable?

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            That’s a good system, but it still just reacts to a problem. Though, it’s an improvement over humans.

            https://www.bosch-mobility-solutions.com/en/products-and-services/passenger-cars-and-light-commercial-vehicles/driver-assistance-systems/predictive-pedestrian-protection/

            My thing is the prediction of what’s going to happen. Build a model of the world around you and then make predictions of what that model will look like when the vehicle traverses the space in front of it. I don’t want to just react when something happens, I want to anticipate what’s going to happen so you can be prepared. When do you slow down and when do you give extra space – without creating something that easily panics and hits the brakes at the slightest threat.

            To do this, you have to identify what the objects are and understand their behavior. For example, that object next to the road. Is it a trash can or is it a deer. The trash can is okay, but start slowing down if it’s a motionless deer. The system is already good enough to be able to tell the difference between adults and children and analyze head positions. It’ll even take a shot a guessing the breeds of dogs.

            I want to do things like when I’m approaching a cyclist from the rear, is there a hazard like a pothole at the side of the road that might cause that cyclist to swerve in front of me just as I’m passing the cyclist?

            That sort of intuition is needed for fully autonomous vehicles. Like it or not, they have to be better than even the best human driver. They’ll get there. It just might take some time. In the meantime, these systems can help as human driver assistance systems.

  • avatar

    This technology is not ready for prime time. And I am not at all surprised the “safety driver” did not prevent the crash. The autonomous mode will work well most of the time, lulling the “safety driver” into a false sense of security which will significantly delay any possible preventative actions.

    • 0 avatar
      ttacgreg

      What is the whole point of self driving cars if the “safety driver” needs to be continuously vigilant? Might as well drive the damn thing. Is not inattention for those being transported the whole point of self driving cars?
      I will not be impressed until a self driving car can do something I routinely do, that would be driving in light to heavy snowstorms.

  • avatar

    So much for the billons spent for autonomous driving.

  • avatar
    turbo_awd

    I’m curious to see how a self-driving car will handle various cultural differences. For example, Silicon Valley, where pedestrians are generally given the extreme right of way and where Waymo and Uber are developing the software (i.e. the culture they’re familiar with) vs. Montreal, where crossing the street when there’s traffic can feel a bit like Frogger..

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I’m sure Uber will find some way to blame this on the pedestrian.

    I don’t know the facts of the case, but we’ve all encountered pedestrians on the road where they shouldn’t be. I’ve seen this problem scores of times over the years. And I’ve never hit anyone, whether they were errantly somewhere they shouldn’t have been.

    I don’t care how advanced the technology is – I trust my instincts and skills more than I trust some computer’s. And that’s also true when it’s MY body crossing the street.

    Autonomous driving is one thing when it’s on a pancake-flat stretch of I-70 somewhere between Hays and Manhattan. It’s quite another when it’s on a crowded street full of other cars and pedestrians.

  • avatar
    Ar-Pharazon

    If you can believe what you read on Reddit . . . the deceased was walking her bicycle across the street from left-to-right (with respect to the vehicle). Damage to the vehicle was on the right side, indicating that she did not ‘jump’ out in front of the vehicle at the last minute.

  • avatar

    unsafe at any speed.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    It’s too early to form any conclusions. We don’t yet know who was at fault. Perhaps, the vehicle should have detected the victim in time to stop short or swerve around her. Perhaps, she stepped into its path when it was so close that avoiding her would have required repeal of Newton’s laws of motion.

  • avatar
    RHD

    Walking a bicycle, or pushing a shopping cart filled with all her grimy worldly possessions?
    In a warm climate at this time of the year, the second situation would not surprise me.

  • avatar
    brn

    Haven’t most of the violations been from Uber autonomous vehicles? Maybe we shouldn’t be upset at all of them, just because Uber can’t get it right.

    Of course, we also have to accept the possibility that Elaine created a situation that no driver (human or not) could have averted.

  • avatar
    White Shadow

    A lot of people seem to be jumping to conclusions, no? Consider this: The robot car was driving safely down the road at or under the posted speed limit when without warning, a lady steps directly into the path of the car just one second before impact. Instead of crossing the road at the crosswalk, she was jaywalking and was positioned out of sight between two SUVs. Neither the robot car nor the “safety driver” behind the wheel could’ve seen the woman until it was already over. Since we are all jumping to conclusions, this is my wild theory of this unfortunate incident. And in that scenario, the jaywalker dies whether the car is driven by the world’s fastest reacting defensive driver or a fully autonomous car. The moral of the story is that there will always be accidents involving cars and pedestrians, robot cars included.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    It will be interesting to see the video. It is certainly possible for somebody to walk in front of traffic such that no driver could be expected to avoid them.

  • avatar

    Question if anyone knows.
    Does autonomous mode stop the vehicle automatically when pedestrian detected or slow down while calculating how long a pedestrian will take to cross. If so,a person carrying a bike might slow down to lift bike over curb and the car might have assumed the pedestrian had cleared road.

  • avatar
    jeffzekas

    One word: SKYNET

  • avatar
    racerviii

    Autonomous cars out in the wild. What could go wrong?

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    A kid chasing a ball into the street between parked cars (as happens often) stands even less a chance – a smaller target for the sensors moving quicker than a lady with a shopping cart/bicycle. Remember that aircraft with decades of using very intricate and well-proven automatic pilot/navigation/thrust controls maintain at least one pilot looking out the windows especially in heavier traffic areas to take immediate and decisive action for the unanticipated – aircraft are not on physical tracks and not all others flying in the vicinity follow the rules such as “crossing at the crosswalk” or even obeying notifications/commands from the ATC.

    • 0 avatar
      Deontologist

      Radar technology from Bosch that is found in Volkswagen cars enable cars to “see” pedestrians behind vehicles. The radar is bounced off the road under parked vehicles and can hit pedestrians behind the parked vehicles. The radar return can then be analyzed and the pedestrian should be detected.

      Whether this kind of advanced radar signal processing is being used by uber is another question.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    More people killed by AVs – sooner they will be banned

  • avatar
    dusterdude

    @sirwired, Agree. I would hope that real world autonomous testing is halted until a firm conclusion and corrective action is made. But, as other posters have said, since big business wants this, I have a feeling the hiatus will be short

  • avatar
    doublechili

    I’m anti-Pod. But two things. I wonder how many pedestrians were killed by human drivers yesterday? And did anyone really think the implementation of Pods was going to be anything but messy? It comes down to, is the technology worth the significant collateral damage that will be incurred during the implementation, and/or how soon do we need/want the technology. Because, if we want the Pods and we want them now, some people are going to die.

    • 0 avatar
      Cactuar

      I don’t recall signing up a form to take part in pod development. I doubt this pedestrian signed up for it either.

      • 0 avatar
        doublechili

        We don’t sign up for technological advances individually, but as a society (species even) we “sign up” for it.

        As much as I dislike the idea of not driving, and hope the implementation is done wisely (not rushed), big picture the technology is inevitable. As are accidents along the way. I’m not advocating, just stating the facts. It will be similar in some ways to horse/buggy to cars.

        So just to get more specific re: your objection, while the transition to pods will be messy, the real issue is how quickly they try to push through the technology and therefore how messy will the transition be? So I think each time we hear a story like this, the review will have to be focused on whether the incident was caused by rushed implementation. Because yes, we do not sign up to be living test dummies.

  • avatar
    Prado

    I travel this road regularly. Really wish the video was made available. From various pictures, I conclude the approximate spot of accident was northbound lanes at 640 N Mill Ave, Tempe 85281 … approaching the intersection. If you go there on google maps, there are some interesting factors. 1) A bike lane that is ending, for a right turn lane. The usual Uber Pattern would be for them to be making a right turn at this intersection and head up to Scottsdale Rd. 2) In the large center median, there is a ‘Do Not Cross Here’ sign. Really makes no sense why someone on a bike wouldn’t just go to the intersection.

  • avatar
    dwford

    Maybe this will finally get Uber out of the autonomous game. As a ride share company, they have no real need to develop this tech when virtually every automaker is working on it. They could just as easily buy the cars fully made from any number of automakers.

  • avatar
    jmo

    “The police chief of Tempe, Arizona, where a woman was struck and killed by one of Uber’s self-driving cars Sunday, says the ride-sharing company is likely not at fault for the accident, following a preliminary investigation.

    Chief of Police Sylvia Moir told the San Francisco Chronicle on Monday that video footage taken from cameras equipped to the autonomous Volvo SUV potentially shift the blame to the victim herself, 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, rather than the vehicle.

    “It’s very clear it would have been difficult to avoid this collision in any kind of mode [autonomous or human-driven] based on how she came from the shadows right into the roadway,” Moir told the paper, adding that the incident occurred roughly 100 yards from a crosswalk. “It is dangerous to cross roadways in the evening hour when well-illuminated managed crosswalks are available,” she said.”

    Thoughts B&B?

    http://fortune.com/2018/03/19/uber-self-driving-car-crash/

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      I guess I’d want to see the video myself (although I don’t really love the idea of seeing someone run over) and read opinions from more than just the police chief before making any judgement.

    • 0 avatar
      Prado

      I didn’t previously read it, but this report indicated that the person came from the center median …. yet the damage is on the passanger side of the Volvo. Even if the accident was unavoidable, you would think that there would have been at a minimum full on braking already in effect, which does not appear to be the case. It appears as if the Volvo did not ‘see’ her at all in the road.

      • 0 avatar
        redrum

        That’s my thought as well — a combination of environmental factors caused the car to be blind to the pedestrian, similar to the autopilot Tesla not seeing the semi-trailer it drove into. Although if it’s correct that this person was jaywalking in the dark, it could be a case where the autonomous car was simply *no better* than a human driver, rather than an outright system defect (but obviously a large part of the promise of autonomous vehicles is that they will “see” better than humans, especially at night, so whichever way this case goes, it is a loss for autonomous vehicles).

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      The “driver” is a convicted felon, and therefore ineligible to drive for ride sharing companies in the state of Arizona.

      That being said, it was 10 o’clock at night, and the woman with the bike was crossing in the middle of the block – jaywalking. Until I see facts that contradict it, I’d say the blame for the accident lies squarely with the cyclist.

    • 0 avatar
      azmtns

      Based on my knowledge of the area, I cautiously agree with the police. At that time of night this area is not heavily traveled. It’s a wide road that is divided with lighting on the sides and not in the median. If someone does step out from the median and is not in a cross walk, a human would have a hard time avoiding hitting a person. But this still does not bode well for autonomous driving at this time.

  • avatar
    ernest

    This type of scenario is all too common in Portland. Large homeless/immigrant population with no regard to common sense pedestrian safety procedures. Dark clothing and no reflective gear seem to be a universal part of the equation. Factor in the weather and winter darkness, and our pedestrian fatalities have shot through the roof.

    Of course our city fathers blame irresponsible speeders for the carnage.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    I’d be interested in knowing if this pedestrian with bicycle commonly crossed the road at this spot. In other words, if she habitually crossed there, was used to traffic patterns and obviously hadn’t been run down before, what was different this time?

    Irrelevancies such as her social status (do the homeless commonly own bicycles?) should have no place here in the investigation. The whole accident needs to be thoroughly investigated, not given a quick shampoo and rinse to get it off the books.

    There seems to be general agreement from people who piously declare that autonomous cars will save lives, and the unseemly rush by tech companies to be first at getting some half-a*sed autonomous driving system to market. Logic dictates that this accident be thoroughly gone over to see whether it is a one-off or a systemic problem. But obfuscation will likely rule.

    The NTSB investigates crashes of all kinds and finds that its recommendations are not acted upon by the authorities responsible for years, if ever.

    In the aviation field, whether airlines can “afford” upgrades or refits seems to take precedence over safety, and has for decades. I follow air accident investigations for interest’s sake. Apologists argue that flying is so safe, the way things are now is just fine, and maybe it is.

    However, at the beginning of a new technology’s introduction, it seems prudent to at least have systens thoroughly vetted to be reasonable by independent experts at the macro scale, then go from there.

    Instead I see constant huffing and puffing from advocates and business, and jurisdictions short of cash allowing these experimental robot cars to ply their roads. There appears to be no official vetting whatsoever because of the political tenor of the times, which is certainly oblivious of the individual. It seems to come down to a case of sacrificing a few to advance the “art”. If you’re okay with that, don’t squawk if you end up on the sharp end of Autonomous Guessing Driving Version 1.0

  • avatar
    turf3

    Thing is, there are a huge number of cues a human uses to determine the kinds of unexpected things that might happen. Computers are notoriously bad at reacting to the unanticipated. Traffic is full of the unanticipated.

    For example, driving down a street with a lot of parked cars. A human driver can easily tell whether this is a ghetto neighborhood where there may be drug-addled or drunk people that might wobble out into the street; a prosperous business district where there may be rapidly moving jaywalkers who, however, will tend to have their wits about them; downtown in a large city where you are likely to have scooters weaving in and out and bicyclists traveling both in accordance with law and not; a residential area with houses close to the street and children’s toys in all the front yards; or a residential area with houses set far back from the street and visible people dressed in party clothes carrying bottles of wine and covered dishes to the single house that’s the source of all the parked cars. I will be scanning for different kinds of potential hazards. How many programmers will it take how many years to codify all of that into instructions for the computer?

    When will people grow some stones and stand up to these corporations that are putting us at risk by doing their experimentation on non-consenting bystanders using publicly funded roads and other infrastructure?

    I still say that at a minimum every self-driving car needs to be clearly identified – for example, painted in bright yellow and black stripes and carrying a rotating red beacon light.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    Not surprised at all. Autonomous cars are only practical on dedicated, pedestrian-free roads designed for such purpose, when all other cars are also autonomous.

    In other words, we won’t see it in our lifetime, unless Bill Gates or some other billionaire builds a city from the ground up out in the desert somewhere.

  • avatar
    Shortest Circuit

    Let’s see if someone takes Otto to court…
    https://thebottomofabottle.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/airplane-autopilot.jpg

  • avatar
    stingray65

    Scenarios that will slow down self-driving:
    1. Someone wanting to commit suicide by jumping in front of a self-driving car owned by a deep pocketed tech or auto company (payday for the kids left behind).
    2. Homeless person wanting a nice payday and free hospital room and board jumping in front of a self-driving car owned by a deep pocketed tech or auto company.
    3. Accidents due to unpredictable kids on bikes, trikes, scooters, chasing balls, etc.
    4. Accidents due to unpredictable adults on motorcycles – lane splitting, driving way over the speed limit, etc.

    You can program for the predictable, but it is very difficult to program for the unpredictable and/or irrational behavior of humans.

  • avatar
    thx_zetec

    This reminds me of case when there are high profile police-shootings. Immediately after there is not much information but many are sure it is police (or shooter’s) fault. We have to be patient; that car is loaded with sensors and there will be plenty of data to figure out what happened.

    For cases like this we need same model as commercial aviation NTSB. Don’t crucify the companies or drivers etc, but collect all data and study is carefully. That is how flying became so safe.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • retrocrank: A couple of decades ago I asked my farmer friends (a.k.a. ag producers) why their huge tractors were...
  • The Comedian: Would it pass GM’s own toolbox test? https://youtu.be/GrahNMrlOIY
  • ToolGuy: Latest Proposal to OEM’s Which Will Not Be Adopted… “Road Warrior Edition” or model...
  • ToolGuy: Corey, I don’t think Mopar was necessarily referring to the input side of the equation.
  • ToolGuy: I think the idea is that many EV fans have or are perceived to have a religious fervor for electricity and a...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributors

  • Timothy Cain, Canada
  • Matthew Guy, Canada
  • Ronnie Schreiber, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States
  • Mark Baruth, United States
  • Moderators

  • Adam Tonge, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States