Police in Tempe, Arizona released the videos from the Uber’s autonomous vehicle’s accident that struck and killed a pedestrian over the weekend. One camera is facing the street and the other camera facing the driver, who appears to be looking down at something (texting or reading a text on his phone?) moments before hitting 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg walking her bicycle across the street. Rafael Vasquez, 44, the man behind the wheel of the self-driving Uber Volvo told Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir that “it was like a flash, the person walked out in front.” He said that “the first alert of the collision was the sound of the collision.”
The self-driving Volvo XC90 was traveling at 38 mph at the time of the impact on a stretch of road that police say is a 35-mph zone.
Many questions still remain about this accident. This Volvo is equipped with City Safe technology, which is designed to avoid collisions with cyclists or pedestrians walking out in front of the car at speeds up to 28mph. The system is designed to hit the brakes to help mitigate a potential collision. It isn’t clear if Uber turned off City Safe system or the system failed to work as it was designed. However, it seems the City Safe system may have been turned off for Uber’s own suite of autonomous sensors and equipment.
Experts telling the AP suggested that this self-driving car should’ve detected Herzberg and avoid a crash by quickly applying the brakes or making an emergency maneuver. Even on a dark unlit road where this accident happened, the self-driving car’s LIDAR and radar systems should’ve have detected an object in the road, whether moving or not.
Uber issued a statement saying “Our cars remain grounded, and we’re assisting local, state and federal authorities in any way we can.”
Tempe Police Vehicular Crimes Unit is actively investigating
the details of this incident that occurred on March 18th. We will provide updated information regarding the investigation once it is available. pic.twitter.com/2dVP72TziQ
— Tempe Police (@TempePolice) March 21, 2018
Tempe Police is still investigating this accident and “will address the operating condition of the vehicle, driver interaction with the vehicle, and opportunities for the vehicle or driver to detect the pedestrian that was struck.” However, indications suggest that Vasquez may not face any charges. This fatal accident shows the need for more regulations and responsibility when it comes to self-driving cars, it seems that pedestrians may become the scapegoat when something like this happens involving autonomous cars in the future. Self-driving cars are far from perfect and more regulations need to be in place to make these tech companies not rush this technology on to the roads. Human intervention and control is still key when it comes to driving a car.