Uber Halts Driverless Tests Following Fatal Crash

Mike Mish Shedlock

An Uber driverless car struck and killed a person in Tempe, Arizona. Uber halted all tests.

Tempe Police says the vehicle was in autonomous mode at the time of the crash and a vehicle operator was also behind the wheel. No passengers were in the vehicle at the time.

Uber has paused self-driving operations in Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto, which is a standard move, the company says.

Bloomberg notes the woman was crossing the road outside of a crosswalk when the Uber vehicle, operating in autonomous mode under the supervision of a human safety driver, struck her, according to the Tempe Police Department.

Bicyclist or Pedestrian?

Several stories say a bicyclist was killed, others say a pedestrian. It may have been a pedestrian walking a bicycle.

Here's the answer.

The fact remains that driverless cars have a better safety record than human-driven cars. Also, recall there was a safety driver behind the wheel who could have but didn't take over.

Had this not involved an autonomous car, this would not be in any news.

These Tweets are from people who have the correct attitude.

This was bound to happen at some point and it is hardly surprising that Uber is the company. However, It's highly likely no one is to blame but the woman stepping in front of a car.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

Comments (71)
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whirlaway
whirlaway

"The fact remains that driverless cars have a better safety record than human-driven cars."

Come back and say that when driverless cars have logged miles that are at least 10 percent of what human drivers do.

"Also, recall there was a safety driver behind the wheel who could have but didn't take over."

What a pathetic attempt to blame the human. The human was expected to take over only when the computer failed. In such situations, the reaction time would be slower than what it would have been in the absence of the automated system.

Why are you so anti-people and anti working people and anti American working people all the time????

Sechel
Sechel

I believe we'll see driverless trucks way before we see driverless cars. This technology lends itself more to highway applications in my view. And in the case of Truck fleets it probably increases safety as truck drivers work long hours and get tired

NormGriffin
NormGriffin

Looks like it wasn’t uber’s fault, the lady walked into the car without notice. This isn’t going to stop anything.

Grumblenose
Grumblenose

Really? If you were driving down a quiet street and saw someone on a bike on the sidewalk behaving erratically, what would you do? Slow down and give them a wide berth? Most human drivers would. Just blaming the victim here because they were technically wrong is not an excuse. A self-driving car has to be able to drive at least as safely as a good human driver.

KidHorn
KidHorn

It's most likely the pedestrians fault, but this is still bad for furthering the use of autonomous vehicles. There's going to be a battle between what the voters want and what industry wants. Industry wants autonomous vehicles, but the public doesn't. This is similar to the gun debate. Most people want to ban assault rifles, but the gun industry pays for a lot of political ads.

Guinny_Ire
Guinny_Ire

Considering the 2nd amendment was put in to guarantee the people's ability to guarantee their freedom of speech from an oppressive govt I have not problem with "assault" rifles and most of the people I know do not either.

Guinny_Ire
Guinny_Ire

I wish you had a submit button instead of the enter button for submittal. No paragraph mode................Driverless cars will only work in environments where there are no humans whose choice of action can conflict with the driverless car's ability to interpret and react to such choices. We had an accident a number of years ago where a trucker, fell asleep, and plowed into standstill traffic, killing a number of people. When this happens with driverless trucks the outrage will directed towards the industry as a whole.

Grumblenose
Grumblenose

Next time you go out driving, think how many times you make better driving judgements based on the body language of pedestrians or other drivers. Can you tell the difference between a dog on a leash and one wandering free? Can you tell the difference between a drunk man and a sober one? Can you tell if someone is about to cross the road or just standing there? Can you recognize when someone is waving at you, warning you of a wreck or obstacle ahead? Can you spot a traffic cop giving you hand signals? Can you tell that a stationary car is about to make a turn by the angle of their wheels? We are actually extremely good as interpreting the intentions of others from a whole host of very subtle clues, none of which are understood by self-driving vehicles. Self-driving cars are deeply stupid compared to human drivers.

Grumblenose
Grumblenose

Latest reports suggest that the Uber car didn't even slow down significantly as the woman crossed from the median. But hey! She was legally wrong to cross there so that's just fine.

Coasting2018
Coasting2018

A few months back Mish had a bad experience picking up a rental a car, and he made a big point of saying that he will never deal with that company again. In the US, you buy a ladder, there are warnings plastered all over it to make sure you don't do something stupid and so that the ladder company can avoid liability. You spill a hot coffee on yourself while driving - you can sue someone. But, when a person minding their own business is run over by an autonomous car, Mish is concerned by which tweeters have the right attitude - yup sounds right.

Yes autonomous cars will get better. Yes they will replace human controlled cars. But being in the technology business I see how systems are tested and rolled out and called back and tweaked, and how QA fails, and how decisions are made, and I'd like to know how THIS test car ever made it out onto the streets ...

Corto
Corto

Story, with the last line being the most important:

Following yesterday's market-moving report of a fatal accident involving a self-driving Uber car on the roads of Tempe, Arizona, legal experts immediately chimed in, saying this case presents many thorny legal issues - chief among which is the issue of who could be at fault.

Since it was the first recorded fatality involving a self-driving car, would investigators point the finger at the car's human driver? Uber? The car's manufacturer? Some combination of the three (or none of the above).

In the first hint at the investigation being carried out by Tempe police, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the Tempe police chief said her preliminary investigation suggested that Uber wasn't at fault. Police Chief Sylvia Moir described the victim, the possibly homeless 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, as pushing a bicycle laden with plastic shopping bags when she abruptly stepped from the center media into a lane of traffic before being struck by the car.

"I suspect preliminarily it appears that the Uber would likely not be at fault in this accident, either," Moir said.

Moir added that she "wouldn't rule out" the possibility of charges against the backup driver in the vehicle, even though she said it appeared that neither a human driver or an autonomous car could've reasonably been expected to avoid the victim, who was caught on video abruptly stepping into the roadway into oncoming traffic.

Grumblenose
Grumblenose

"he said it appeared that neither a human driver or an autonomous car could've reasonably been expected to avoid the victim, who was caught on video abruptly stepping into the roadway into oncoming traffic". Yup, I'm sure she was completely invisible until she stepped out. Jeez!

NormGriffin
NormGriffin

Grumblenose - Less than one year ago I was in an accident. A lady pulled out without looking and crashed head on into me. I was lucky, only going 35 and slammed on the breaks, the car was totaled and I only sustained a wrist injury. Had I been going 65 or faster, I might not be here. If my car was an AV, it wouldn’t have made much of a difference in the outcome. Events happened too fast because of the other drivers bad choices. Tens of thousands die each year in car crashes, look it up. Should we stop people from driving? AV will reduce this number considerably. Technology builds on failures as much as successes. Again, this tragic accident stops nothing. As for me, I’m welcoming AV.

NormGriffin
NormGriffin

*brakes

Corto
Corto

If the lady stepped out without warning, I don't know what any system, human or autonomous, could do. I was talking with my family about it yesterday --- I was imagining a situation driving, even only 30 MPH down Michigan Ave in Chicago during a busy weekend. There will be pedestrians walking up and down both sidewalks, at intersections, and likely trying to run across the street not at crosswalks. If there is no safety in mind by the pedestrian, or is distracted and walks out into traffic, nothing will ever prevent that. Anyone in any situation can walk out in front of a car or bus at the last second and get killed without giving the driver any chance to react.

Corto
Corto

Grumblenose, I would expect the car was aware of the lady, but if the code is supposed to assume every pedestrian is a potential accident, then the only solution would be to drive at 2-4MPH every time a pedestrian is within range.

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