Uber’s self-driving operator charged over fatal crash

Uber’s self-driving operator charged over fatal crash

A metallic gray Volvo car, wrapped with some occasional Uber branding in white vinyl, is seen here with a large stand on top of the vehicle that houses self-driving equipment

copyright of the imageReuters

image captionThe self-driving Volvo struck a pedestrian at 39 mph, despite the presence of a safety driver

The backup driver of an Uber self-driving car who killed a pedestrian was charged with manslaughter.

Elaine Herzberg, 49, was hit by the car while riding a bicycle down the road in Tempe, Arizona in 2018.

Investigators said the car safety driver, Rafael Vasquez, had streamed an episode of The Voice TV show at the time.

Ms Vasquez pleaded not guilty and was released pending trial.

Uber won’t face criminal charges after that

a decision last year that “there was no basis for criminal liability” for the company.

The crash was the first ever recorded death involving a self-driving car and led to Uber ending testing of the technology in Arizona.

‘Visually distracted’

Extensive investigations by the police and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found that human error was primarily the cause of the accident.

Ms. Vasquez was in the driver’s seat and had the ability to take control of the vehicle in an emergency.

Dash cam footage released by police showed Ms. Vasquez looking down, away from the road, for several seconds immediately before the crash, as the car was traveling at 63 km / h.

multimedia captionUber dashcam footage shows the moment before the fatal impact

Recordings from the Hulu streaming service also appeared to show that his device was streaming a TV show at the time.

A June 2018 police report labeled the fatal collision as “completely avoidable” if the driver observed the road.

The NTSB, meanwhile, identified the probable cause of the accident in the operator’s inability to monitor the surrounding environment and the automated system, “because she was visually distracted throughout the journey from her personal cell phone.”

NTSB Vice President Bruce Landsberg wrote in the report: “On this trip, the security driver spent 34% of the time watching his cell phone while streaming a TV show.”

Ms. Vasquez was indicted on August 27 and made her first court appearance on September 15. The trial is now scheduled for February next year.

In May 2018, when Elaine Herzberg was killed, confidence in autonomous vehicle technology was at an all-time high.

Everyone from Elon Musk to British Chancellor Philip Hammond was telling us that robo-taxis and other autonomous vehicles would be on the roads within a couple of years, reducing congestion and giving a big boost to road safety.

But the Arizona accident undermined that trust.

It showed that as intelligent as machine learning is in autonomous systems, mixing robots and humans as cars made the journey to full autonomy would prove to be a real challenge.

Not only has Uber had to stop its testing schedule for a while, but rivals like Google’s Waymo have become noticeably more cautious in their tests. Only today was it reported that Chinese tech giant Baidu is rejecting the full rollout of its robo-taxis until 2025, in part due to regulatory confusion.

As long as “self-driving” cars still need a human driver behind the wheel, there will be confusion as to who is to blame when something goes wrong, but becoming fully autonomous is such a huge step that even the most tech company is likely to blame. bold to be very cautious about going first.

Despite the decision not to impose criminal charges against Uber itself, the company has not escaped criticism.

The NTSB report says Uber’s “inadequate safety risk assessment procedures” and “ineffective control of vehicle operators” were contributing factors. He accused the company of having an “inadequate safety culture”.

The vehicle’s automatic systems failed to identify Ms. Herzberg and her bicycle as an impending collision hazard in the way they should have, the NTSB discovered.
Days before the accident, an employee had warned his superiors that the vehicles were unsafe, were regularly involved in accidents, and raised concerns about operator training.
Following the crash, Arizona authorities suspended Uber’s ability to test self-driving cars on the state’s public roads, and Uber concluded its tests in the state. It received permission to test in the state of California earlier this year.

Related topics

  • Unmanned car

  • Machinery industry
  • Uber
  • Arizona

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