Arizona authorities released shocking footage from a dash cam video of an accident where a self-driving Uber vehicle killed a pedestrian in Tempe in March. The footage shows the self-driving SUV slamming into a woman who was crossing the street with her bike with a distracted “driver” behind the wheel. In the video, you can see the emergency backup driver has their head down as the car strikes 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, who died from her injuries. Uber has been testing their autonomous system and the death of Herzberg is the first pedestrian death associated with self-driving technology. Uber suspended testing in Tempe, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Toronto following the incident.
While testing has been suspended, all self-driving Uber vehicles were equipped with an emergency backup driver in the event something like this happens. Unfortunately, the driver in this instance – Rafaela Vasquez – appeared to be looking down at something in front of the dash, only looking up as the vehicle struck Herzberg. Herzberg appeared to be looking away from the oncoming car as she walked her bike across an open lane. The National Transportation Safety Board and National Traffic Safety Administration have been conducting an investigation over the last two months. It is believed that the potential cause of the accident was likely the result of a problem with software that decides “how the car should react to objects it detects.” According to the report, the software in the car was programmed to ignore some objects in its path, but it may have been tuned too far, which is why it did not react to the pedestrian.
Are Self-Driving Cars Safe?
There is a great deal of debate right now regarding autonomous vehicles and how safe they are. While all self-driving Uber vehicles have a “real” driver behind the wheel in the event of an emergency, it is clear from this case that isn’t always enough. Prior to this accident, Arizona had taken a lenient approach to regulation when it comes to testing autonomous cars. This is because Arizona officials have wanted to attract companies with self-driving technology from California, which has much stricter regulations.
The Uber car, in this case, was a Volvo XC90 SUV outfitted with a sensing system. The vehicle was operating at around 40 MPH when it struck Herzberg. According to dash cam footage, the car did not appear to slow down before hitting the pedestrian, and the backup driver showed no signs of impairment. There has been some debate since the accident as to whether the pedestrian is to blame. Some experts have said they don’t believe the victim’s family will receive compensation, as the accident could have been avoided. However, in light of what the report mentioned above found, this may not be the case. Pursuing an accident claim against Uber and Lyft can be complicated as is, let alone when you bring self-driving technology into the mix. If you or a loved one has been involved in an Uber accident in Lake Charles or Dallas, please contact Shamieh Law. While rideshare vehicles are extremely convenient and are in place to provide a safe ride, this is not always the case. Our attorneys have experience handling these types of cases and are prepared to do the same for you today.