U.S. transport safety board finds Uber software at fault for fatal collision

Emergency brakes disabled on unmanned Uber that killed Arizona woman – report

The initial report by the National Transportation Safety Board on the fatal self-driving Uber crash in March confirms that the auto detected the pedestrian as early as 6 seconds before the crash, but did not slow or stop because its emergency braking systems were deliberately disabled. The organization is clear that the document "does not contain probably cause" but does give much more detail about the crash than has previously been released. "Everyone on our roads shares the responsibility for safety, and Uber blatantly neglected to do its part". The report claimed the sensors on Uber's self-driving Volvo detected the woman crossing the street with a bicycle outside of a crosswalk but decided not to immediately act. It paints a damning picture of Uber's self-driving technology.

The SUV also lacked a way to alert the human driver behind the wheel to manually brake. "Many of the issues raised in the report lead right back to Uber and Uber's testing program as a legitimate target of criticism". As part of that process, Uber hired Christopher Hart, a former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, to review its self-driving auto program.

Data from the auto shows the autonomous system first registered LIDAR and radar observations of the pedestrian around 6 seconds prior to impact.

Uber's computer-vision software initially classified her as an unknown object, then as another vehicle, before deciding she was actually a bicycle and couldn't predict the direction she was going to go.

One of Uber's self-driving cars killed a pedestrian crossing the road at night because its emergency braking systems were turned off, according to an investigation by the USA government's National Transport Safety Board. Human chaperones are supposed to take control when the cars' sensors and algorithms fall short or other circumstances demand it. It didn't have a specific comment on the NTSB report.

The system relied on the human backup driver to intervene but is not now able to alert the driver of any unsafe situations.


The report goes on to say that the self-driving system actually saw Herzberg six seconds before the impact occurred.

According to the investigators, the unmanned vehicle spotted the danger and determined the need to stop 1.3 seconds before the fatal crash. That's described as a decision made "to reduce the potential for erratic vehicle behavior". The safety-first approach that AV developers should rightly be adopting when dealing with hazards will naturally turn up a lot of false positives.

This image from the NTSB report shows that the auto identified the object as a bicycle at least 1.3 seconds before impact.

Volvo Cars equipped the vehicle with several advanced driver-assistance systems, including a collision-avoidance function with automatic emergency braking as well as functions for detecting driver alertness and road-sign information. "We're easily distracted, and we have slower reaction times", Samaras added.

In fact, the Uber spokesperson, who asked not to be named for this article, said that backup drivers "are not required to do anything with the diagnostics". The National Transportation Safety Board released a preliminary report Thursday on the collision.

Vasquez didn't seem impaired to Tempe police, and she wasn't tested for alcohol or drugs, the report says.

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