Police say a movie in the Uber self-driving car that struck and killed a woman Sunday reveals her moving in front of it abruptly, a element that investigators are likely to concentrate on as they assess the functioning of the technology in the first pedestrian fatality between an autonomous vehicle. The Uber had a forward-facing video recorder, which revealed the girl was walking a bicycle at about 10pm and proceeded to traffic from a dark centre median. “It is very clear it would have been difficult to avoid this collision in any kind of manner,” Sylvia Moir, police leader in Tempe, Arizona, told the San Francisco Chronicle.
“The driver said it was just like a flash, the person walked out in front of them,” Moir said, speaking to this backup driver that was behind the wheel but not operating the motor vehicle. “His first alert to the collision was the noise of the collision.”
The chief’s account raises new questions in the analysis that holds importance to the future of the burgeoning autonomous vehicle market. Uber Technologies halted autonomous vehicle tests in the wake of the collision.
It’s too soon to draw any conclusions from the preliminary information that has emerged, ” said Brian Walker Smith, a law professor at the University of South Carolina who has studied autonomous car liability.
“It is possible that Uber’s automated driving system did not detect that the pedestrian, didn’t classify her as a pedestrian, or didn’t predict her death from the median,” Smith said in an email. “I do not know whether these steps happened too late to prevent or decrease the crash or if they occurred at all, but the absence of braking or swerving at all is alarming and suggests that the machine never expected the crash.”
Police later said in a statement that the section could defer to county prosecutors on whether to bring charges, but didn’t dispute any of the data released by Moir.
In a news conference Monday, Tempe Police Sgt. Roland Elcock said local authorities hadn’t come to any conclusions about who’s to blame. Decisions on any possible charges will be reached by the Maricopa County Attorney’s office. Neither the victim nor the copy driver showed any indications of impairment.
The victim, Elaine Herzberg, 49, was walking her bike outside of the crosswalk. The car was probably about 38 miles (61 kilometres) per hour, Moir said. Nearby signals show the speed limit was either 35 or 40 miles, although the 40 mph sign was nearest to the collision website.
The department expects to provide a further update later Tuesday but has no plans to release video footage while the analysis is underway.
Sensors on self-driving automobiles – which might consist of laser-based technologies, video and radar – are designed to sense pedestrians and other obstructions even in the dark.
The National Transportation Safety Board is opening an investigation into the death and is sending a team of four investigators to Tempe, roughly 10 kilometers east of Phoenix.
The NTSB opens relatively few highway collision probes each calendar year, but has been carefully after incidents between autonomous or partially autonomous vehicles. This past year, it partially faulted Tesla’s Autopilot system for a deadly crash in Florida in 2016.