Investigations into the autonomous Uber crash are still ongoing.
Many have been worried about the potential safety issues of self-driving cars. Unfortunately, those fears were realized this week in Arizona when one of Uber’s self-driving Volvo XC90 taxis ploughed into a pedestrian, 49-year old Elaine Herzberg, who sadly died from her injuries in hospital following the accident. This isn’t the first time a self-driving Uber has caused an accident, but it’s the first ever self-driving-related fatality.
The accident poses a lot of questions, but according to reports a backup driver was sat behind the wheel while the car was travelling in fully autonomous mode at 38 mph in a 35 zone. While the investigation is still ongoing, according to San Francisco Chronicle Tempe's police chief said that Uber may not be at fault for the fatal autonomous car crash. “The driver said it was like a flash, the person walked out in front of them,” said Tempe’s police chief, Sylvia Moir. “His first alert to the collision was the sound of the collision.” The car made no attempt to brake when Herzberg stepped into the path of the Uber. The autonomous Volvo was modified with at least two video cameras, one facing forward toward the street and the other pointed at the driver's seat.
However, after analyzing the videos the police chief believes there is no evidence suggesting that Uber is to blame for the crash. “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 said. The police chief added that "it is dangerous to cross roadways in the evening hour when well-illuminated, managed crosswalks are available." Investigations will continue, but Moir believes Uber will “likely not be at fault” in the accident. “I won’t rule out the potential to file charges against the (backup driver) in the Uber vehicle,” Moir added.
However, it’s a lot more complicated if the autonomous car is blamed for the accident. “This is really new ground we’re venturing into,” she said. No doubt other automakers like Ford currently trialing autonomous technology will be monitoring the case very closely, as it could have a serious affect on the business of self-driving cars.