Video Shows Seconds Leading up to Fatal Autonomous Uber Crash
Authorities in Tempe, Arizona, have released footage of a fatal crash involving an autonomous Volvo operated by Uber. Warning: the footage is disturbing.
In the video, it appears that the autonomous car failed to slow down or move to avoid Elaine Herzberg, who was walking her bike across the road. The vehicle was going around 40 miles an hour when it hit the woman, according to Tempe police. The video also provides a view of the Uber safety operator behind the front seat as her gaze alternates between the road and something in the car. No charges have been filed in the incident that occurred on the evening of March 18. This is the first known pedestrian death to involve an autonomous vehicle.
Tempe Police Vehicular Crimes Unit is actively investigating
the details of this incident that occurred on March 18th. We will provide updated information regarding the investigation once it is available. pic.twitter.com/2dVP72TziQ
— Tempe Police (@TempePolice) March 21, 2018
“The video is disturbing and heartbreaking to watch, and our thoughts continue to be with Elaine’s loved ones,” an Uber spokeswoman said in a statement to The Wall Street Journal. “Our cars remain grounded, and we’re assisting local, state, and federal authorities in any way we can.”
Although the car is equipped with radar, lidar, and cameras, there’s no indication the Uber car recognized the pedestrian before the accident. It has been confirmed that the car was operating in autonomous mode at the time of the collision. Police are still investigating whether or not Uber is at fault, although Police Chief Sylvia Moir initially told The Arizona Republic that the accident was likely “unavoidable.”
“It’s very clear it would have been difficult to avoid this collision in any kind of mode (autonomous or human-driven) based on how she came from the shadows right into the roadway,” Moir told the San Francisco Chronicle after examining the video.
But one expert disagrees with that assessment. Speaking with WSJ, Todd Humphreys, an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin who researches robot-perception systems, said, “This video is damning for Uber. This appears to have been a serious failure of the Uber perception system,” adding that if the lidar wasn’t operating as intended, “this accident calls into question Uber’s ability to correctly and promptly interpret its data.”
Amid the fatal crash, Toyota and nuTonomy have temporarily suspended their operations with autonomous cars.