An Uber car accident involving a self-driving vehicle has killed a 49-year-old woman in Tempe, Arizona. Elaine Herzberg was pushing her bicycle across around at around 10:00 at night when the specially equipped vehicle failed to recognize her and stop. The vehicle was also equipped with a dashboard camera, which revealed that the Uber driver who was there to override the technology if needed was looking down and away from the road. Though his hands were specifically supposed to be hovering above the steering wheel in order to allow a quick takeover, they were nowhere near the appropriate position.
The Tempe Police Department is investigating the Uber car accident and has not yet determined who is at fault. The company that provided the laser radar sensor for Uber’s car is Velodyne Lidar Inc., and Marta Thoma Hall, the company’s president, said that she does not believe the technology failed and that the “Lidar is capable of clearly imaging Elaine and her bicycle in this situation.” She explains that the implementation of the system’s various sensors is the responsibility of Uber Technologies, Inc. “In addition to Lidar, autonomous systems typically have several sensors, including camera and radar to make decisions. We don’t know what sensors were on the Uber car that evening, if they were working, or how they were being used.”
Uber Car Accident Leads to Halt of Autonomous Car Tests
Uber had been testing the self-driving vehicles in Arizona, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto, but following the car accident the company has stopped all testing. There had already been evidence that the vehicles required more human intervention than was originally anticipated, or that has been experienced by other companies. Where Google’s self-driving car was able to operate an average of 5,600 miles without the driver having to take control, Uber’s results were below 13 miles per intervention. The company’s drivers were also being tasked with taking on the work on their own, while other companies used pairs of drivers to monitor the vehicle’s autonomous operations, and the company had set what some see as an overly ambitious goal of offering driverless cars by year’s end. Speaking of the incident, an Uber spokesman said, “We’re heartbroken by what happened this week, and our cars remain grounded. We continue to assist investigators in any way we can.”