Uber Fatality Investigation Produces More Questions Than Answers

Uber Fatality Investigation Produces More Questions Than Answers

The short video recorded by cameras in the Uber vehicle that struck pedestrian Elaine Herzberg while crossing a street in Tempe, Arizona late Sunday raises questions about whether the Uber system responded better than a human driver, experts said on Wednesday.

"There will no doubt be an exhaustive investigation of the tragic incident involving an Uber self-driving vehicle and a pedestrian", Akshay Anand, an analyst at Kelley Blue Book, said in an emailed statement. And as the video shows, the auto made no attempt to brake or swerve before colliding with Herzberg.

Uber's Volvo XC90 was traveling at 38 miles per hour in a 35 miles per hour zone when the woman appears in the video footage released by the Tempe Police Department.

The video shows Vasquez with a sudden look of shock on her face before hitting Herzberg, and she tenses up, apparently trying to seize control of the vehicle.

But Smith said that from what he observed on the video, the Uber driver appears to be relying too much on the self-driving system by not looking up at the road.

Americans were wary of autonomous vehicle technology even before Sunday's fatality. The company also hasn't said if all systems were functioning properly, or if it was testing a previously unreported sensor array.

When self-driving auto companies test their cars on the open road they measure the vehicles' success and improvement on a number of factors.

Tempe police chief Sylvia Moir said earlier this week that the SUV likely would not be found at fault.

Questions have now been raised as to whether the vehicle was at fault.

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But while California requires self-driving vehicle companies to report problems they are having, Arizona has no such requirements.

After Elain Herzberg's death in Arizona, Uber announced that it has suspended its self-driving vehicle program in four cities - Pittsburgh, Tempe, San Francisco, and Toronto - in response, reports NPR. Convicted felon Rafaela Vasquez, 44, was at the wheel of the vehicle as it was in self-driving mode - a feature being tested by Uber in many cities across the USA and Canada.

In the statement, one of the partners at Bellah Perez, PLLC said the firm felt a "special responsibility to represent this case" as a law firm based in Arizona.

The footage appears to back up Ms Vasquez's claims that she was alert during the ride and nothing she could have done would have prevented the fatal collision. Lidar, or "laser radar", quite literally makes its own light by shooting a laser down the road and detecting any reflections that bounce off obstructions.

Arizona's Governor Doug Ducey has been a champion of the self-driving vehicle industry.

The auto was traveling at approximately 40 miles per hour when it hit Herzberg and it appears as if the cars onboard sensors failed to detect her entirely.

"I think if the vehicle had more sensing capabilities, then they can track more humans and animals moving around the road", he told The News. He notes that regular drivers must undergo testing so "why should these systems be any different?"

Tempe police said the investigation is continuing and would not say whether Vasquez was distracted by something in the vehicle.

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