A car without an Uber driver was involved in a fatal accident because he could not detect a pedestrian

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The vehicle system did not detect passersby who did not cross a designated crosswalk.

November
7, 2019

3 min read

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According to US authorities, a Uber driverless car who hit and killed a pedestrian in March 2018 had serious software failures, including the inability to recognize passersby. The US security agency said Uber's software did not recognize 49-year-old victim Elaine Herzberg as a pedestrian crossing the street. He did not calculate that he could collide with her until 1.2 seconds before the impact, at which time it was too late to stop.

More surprisingly, the authorities mentioned that the system design of Uber "It didn't include a consideration for pedestrians that they don't use the crosswalk properly." In addition to that, the car had a braking delay of one second to try to calculate an alternative route or let the safety driver take control. (since then, Uber has removed that function in a software update).

"Although the system detected the person almost six seconds before the impact, he never classified him as a pedestrian, because he was crossing in a place without a crosswalk and the design of the system did not include a consideration for this type of passers-by," said the Board of United States Transportation Security (NTSB).

According to the report, Uber autonomous test vehicles may not have identified road hazards in at least two other cases. In one, a vehicle hit a pole that had bent on a road. In another, a security driver was forced to take control of the car to avoid another approaching car and ended up hitting a parked car. In the seven months prior to the fatal accident, Uber vehicles were involved in 37 accidents, including 33 in which other cars hit Uber test vehicles.

When Uber resumed testing in December 2018, it used significantly revised software. According to the NTSB, Uber simulated the new system using sensor data from the fatal Arizona accident. He determined that he would have detected the pedestrian 88 meters before the impact and had four seconds to brake before the impact at a speed of 69.5 kph. The average braking distance for a human is approximately 39 meters at that speed, including the reaction time, so it seems likely that the vehicle could have stopped at that distance.

The NTSB will meet on November 19 to determine the cause of the accident in Tempe, Arizona, in March 2018. Prosecutors have already acquitted Uber of criminal responsibility, but are still weighing criminal charges against the emergency driver.

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