Published: Sat, May 26, 2018
Money | By Armando Alvarado

Uber ending self-driving operations in Arizona after fatal crash

Uber ending self-driving operations in Arizona after fatal crash

At 1.3 seconds before impact, the self-driving system determined that emergency braking was needed to mitigate a collision. The vehicle operator is relied on to intervene and take action. "Many of the issues raised in the report lead right back to Uber and Uber's testing program as a legitimate target of criticism".

The vehicle detected the woman walking in front of it as quickly as 6 seconds prior to the crash.

According to the NTSB report, the vehicle first registered Elaine Herzberg on lidar six seconds before the crash - at the speed it was traveling, that puts first contact at about 378 feet away.

The safety agency on Thursday said the vehicle's software detected the pedestrian six seconds before the collision, but initially believed the woman to be "an unknown object", then a vehicle and finally a bike. The system does not alert the operator when it believes emergency braking is required.

A federal investigation into a self-driving Uber SUV that hit and killed a pedestrian in March has found that the vehicle's emergency braking system was disabled. "In addition, the operator is responsible for monitoring diagnostic messages that appear on an interface in the center stack of the vehicle dash and tagging events of interest for subsequent review".

Uber says it's conducting an internal safety review of its self-driving vehicle program and plans to incorporate the NTSB's findings into its self-driving systems. But Uber had disabled the feature to reduce the potential for unwanted braking, such as for a plastic bag in the road. "According to Uber", the NTSB says, "the developmental self-driving system relies on an attentive operator to intervene if the system fails to perform appropriately during testing".

While the safety board's preliminary report did not determine fault, it pointed to instances where Uber's testing system failed to prevent the crash. Her bicycle did not have side reflectors, the organization points out; while front and rear reflectors were fitted, along with a headlamp, they were not pointing in the direction the Uber SUV was traveling.

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In a statement emailed to The Car Connection, Uber said it will cooperate with investigators. "We've also brought on former NTSB Chair Christopher Hart to advise us on our overall safety culture, and we look forward to sharing more on the changes we'll make in the coming weeks", the statement said.

There's no word on when the final NTSB report is due, though Uber's CEO said two weeks ago that he expects the company's self-driving vehicle tests to resume "in a few months", once the NTSB makes its conclusions, the proper permits have been obtained, and after making safety adjustments. "The operator further stated that although her personal and business phones were in the vehicle, neither was in use until after the crash, when she called 911".

While it's still possible to get a traffic citation for hitting a pedestrian who wasn't in a crosswalk, Herzberg's actions will also be taken into account by prosecutors, as will Herzberg's toxicology results, Medina said.

It is also investigating a series of crashes involving Tesla Inc's semi-autonomous "Autopilot" system after faulting the system past year after a fatal crash in Florida. "The system is not created to alert the operator", according to the preliminary report.

In the March crash, the driver began steering less than a second before impact but didn't brake until less than a second after impact.

The NTSB seems to lay partial blame on the pedestrian as well. Still, she was visible in various video images recorded by the car's cameras, according to NTSB. The victim tested positive for both marijuana and methamphetamines following the collision. Her business and personal phones were in the auto, but she didn't use either until after the crash, the driver told the NTSB.

"This is a human failing, specifically it is a human failing of the engineers who have made certain choices", Calo said about the Uber collision.

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