The accident investigation has revealed that the incident between Uber’s autonomous Volvo XC90 and the bicyclist was ‘entirely avoidable.’ Reports indicated that the person behind the wheel of Uber’s self-driving SUV was watching an episode of “The Voice” during the time of the crash. Behind the wheel of the Volvo streaming “The Voice” on Hulu for over 40 minutes during the night of the accident was Rafael Vasquez. According to the US National Transport Safety Board’s (NTSB) investigation he had started streaming the show just minutes after he set the Volvo into autonomous driving mode.
The report indicated that Vasquez looked down repeatedly at his phone watching Hulu. A total of 204 times during the whole journey he took his eyes off the road before striking the bicyclist, Elaine Herzberg. The Tempe Police had determined that the crash was ‘entirely avoidable’ even as Vasquez told investigators that the bicyclist appeared out of nowhere and was not using a proper crosswalk. However, the report clearly showed that Vasquez had enough time to react accordingly either by braking or swerving to avoid hitting the bicyclist. Now Vasquez could be charged with manslaughter, though police haven’t filed any charges yet.
In the meantime, Uber has suspended its self-driving program in Arizona and hopes to resume the program in another region. Though, it maybe tougher now to get past regulators as the report indicated that the autonomous Volvo XC90 prototype’s software had the bicyclist in its vision, but it didn’t take any action or evasive maneuvering due to the system that was suppose to detect ‘false negatives’ wasn’t properly tuned.