Uber Victim Stepped Suddenly in Front of Self-Driving Car
Police say a video from the Uber self-driving car that struck and killed a woman Sunday shows her moving in front of it suddenly, according to Bloomberg. It is a factor that investigators are likely to focus on as they assess the performance of the technology in the first pedestrian fatality involving an autonomous vehicle.
The Uber had a forward-facing video recorder, which showed the woman was walking a bike at about 10 p.m. and moved into traffic from a dark center median. "It’s very clear it would have been difficult to avoid this collision in any kind of mode,” Sylvia Moir, police chief in Tempe, Arizona, told the San Francisco Chronicle. "The driver said it was like a flash, the person walked out in front of them," Moir said, referring to the backup driver who was behind the wheel but not operating the vehicle.
The chief’s account raises new questions in the investigation that holds importance to the future of the burgeoning autonomous vehicle industry. Uber halted autonomous vehicle tests in the wake of the accident. Police later said in a statement that the department would defer to county prosecutors on whether to bring charges, but didn’t dispute any of the information released by Moir.
In a news conference, Tempe Police Sergeant Roland Elcock said local authorities had not come to any conclusions about who is at fault. Decisions on any possible charges will be made by the Maricopa County Attorney’s office. Neither the victim nor the backup driver showed any signs of impairment. The victim, Elaine Herzberg, 49, was walking her bike outside of the crosswalk. The car was most likely going about 38 miles per hour, Moir said. Nearby signs show the speed limit was either 35 or 40 mph, though the 40 mph sign was closest to the accident site.