Reuters reports the National Transportation Safety Board released its findings on an Uber self-driving vehicle accident that resulted in the death of an Arizona woman in March 2018. Reuters reports the vehicle failed to correctly identify the woman as a pedestrian crossing the street because the pedestrian was not in a crosswalk. The NTSB said, “The system design did not include a consideration for jaywalking pedestrians.” The Uber vehicle identified the pedestrian’s bicycle “as an eminent collision” 1.2 seconds before the crash, but the computer “initiated a one-second delay of planned braking while the vehicle calculated an alternative path or the safety driver could take over.” The NTSB also found two incidents in which “Uber test vehicles may not have identified roadway hazards,” including an Uber vehicle striking “a bent bicycle lane post that partially occupied the test vehicle’s lane of travel” and a situation where the test-driver had to take control of the vehicle “to avoid a rapidly approaching vehicle that entered its lane of travel.” Reuters says Uber vehicles were involved in 37 collisions between September 2016 and March 2018 while in autonomous mode, “including 33 that involved another vehicle striking test vehicles.”
The Washington (DC) Post reports the NTSB determined that Uber’s automated driving system “never classified her as a pedestrian — or predicted correctly her goal as a jaywalking pedestrian or a cyclist” because she was not in an area with a crosswalk. The NTSB found that the vehicle had trouble classifying the pedestrian, and the vehicle was programmed to assume objects classified by its computer as “other” would stay stationary. The NTSB said of Uber’s system, “Unless that location is directly on the path of the automated vehicle, that object is not considered as a possible obstacle.” The NTSB said testing conducted by Volvo found that the vehicle’s built-in system that Uber had disabled would have avoided a collision 17 out of 20 times, with the remainder of the incidents involving an impact at speeds lower than 10 miles-per-hour.
Bloomberg reports Uber has “made extensive changes to its self-driving system after several reviews of its operation and findings by NTSB investigators,” and the company “told the NTSB that the new software would have been able to correctly identify Herzberg and triggered controlled braking to avoid her more than 4 seconds before the original impact, the NTSB said.” Bloomberg adds that the safety driver in the Uber vehicle was watching a video on her phone at the time of the crash, and the incident occurred “less than five months” after Uber reduced the number of safety drivers assigned to each car from two to one. Mashable reports an Uber spokesperson said, “We regret the March 2018 crash involving one of our self-driving vehicles that took Elaine Herzberg’s life. In the wake of this tragedy, the team at Uber ATG has adopted critical program improvements to further prioritize safety.”
From the news release of the American Association for Justice.