A self-driving Uber car was involved in a car crash that killed women in Arizona. According to the National Traffic Safety Board, the autonomous car wasn’t able to recognize the pedestrians jaywalk.

The accident took place in March 2018, but the report was released last week. Elaine Herzberg was 49 when she was hit by a Volvo SUV. The operator was sitting in the driver’s seat and streaming the TV show, “The Voice.” While the car was travelling at 40mph at night in Tempe.

What caused the accident?

Uber’s Self Driving Car killed a Woman in Arizona
Image Source – The Verge

The automated Uber car didn’t have the capability to classify the object as a pedestrian unless they are near a crosswalk. It was alternating between vehicles, bicycles, and others. For this reason, it couldn’t predict her path and concluded that it needed to apply the brake. This decision was made just 1.3 seconds before the women, and she flew over her bicycle across the street. All of this was documented in the NTSB report.

NTSB concern on Uber’s automated cars

Uber told the NTSB that it has added jaywalkers in its object identification. However, NTSB feels there are more flaws yet to be solved. Uber has disabled the emergency braking system. Instead, they alarm the driver to stop the car. However, this increases the response time and reduce braking time which is a big no.

Uber does have a technical system safety team but doesn’t have a formal safety plan or guiding document for safety. This is another major red flag. Uber spokeswoman, Sarah Abboud, told Reuters that the company regret the crash and have made an improvement to further prioritize the safety of everyone.

More crash by Uber:

Between Sep 2016 and March 2018, Uber’s autonomous test vehicles were involved in 37 crashes in total. Out of which two were results of a car’s failure to identify a roadway hazard.

Herzberg’s family did settle the case with Uber out of court. Nine months after this accident, Uber announced that it is relaunching its self-driven cars.


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