NTSB's preliminary report on Uber crash focuses on emergency braking

25 May, 2018, 21:34 | Author: Arnold Perez
  • The Uber app is seen on an iPad in a file

But the software onboard wasn't created to alert the driver of the impending crash either, the NTSB said.

Rafaela Vasquez, 44, was serving as the backup driver on the night of March 18 with the vehicle in autonomous mode when it struck the pedestrian on Mill Avenue. "The report also notes the pedestrian's post-accident toxicology test results were positive for methamphetamine and marijuana", the NTSB says.

Vasquez was not tested for alcohol or drugs, but police said she showed no signs of impairment. Instead, she was looking below the dashboard, near the center console. Volvo has said that its sensors can react in fractions of a second, up to 62 miles per hour, and a human driver would need more than a second to react and brake. It's still considered an active investigation and police aren't releasing the report or any details of their investigation.

Carl Tobias, a liability expert at the University of Richmond school of law, said the incident and Uber's subsequent decision to pull out of testing in Arizona, underscores a need for greater regulatory oversight in the testing of self-driving vehicles.

Gov. Ducey lured Uber to Arizona two years ago with the promise of no rules for the road.

However, in a statement Wednesday afternoon, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said he was not aware of Uber's announcement to resume testing this summer until he saw it on social media.

The NTSB said that the system was also not programmed to alert the backup driver in the vehicle to the emergency, and that it was up to her to take action in this type of situation. The Volvo model's built-in safety systems - collision avoidance and emergency braking, among other things - are also disabled while in autonomous mode.

According to Uber, the developmental self-driving system relies on an attentive operator to intervene if the system fails to perform appropriately during testing.

The self-driving Uber's computer was in control.

The report confirms that the sensors on the vehicle worked as expected, spotting pedestrian Elaine Herzberg about six seconds prior to impact, which should have given it enough time to stop given the car's 43mph speed. This was six seconds before impact. The system then classified Herzberg as a vehicle, and finally as a bicycle, the NTSB said.

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The sensors of a self-driving Uber vehicle spotted a pedestrian pushing a bicycle across the road six seconds before killing her, according to a report. It marked the first death involving a fully autonomous vehicle, raising questions about the safety of computer-controlled cars being built by Uber and dozens of other companies, including Google spin-off Waymo.

The operator took action less than a second before impact, the report says, by moving the steering wheel.

Vasquez reportedly told Tempe police that she was "monitoring the self-driving interface" just before the crash.

However, Uber told Phoenix New Times on Thursday that backup drivers aren't trained to look at the diagnostics while the auto is in motion.

"This is a human failing, specifically it is a human failing of the engineers who have made certain choices", Calo said about the Uber collision.

Under the zero-to-five level system of grading self-driving capability developed by the Society of Automotive Engineers, a vehicle that lacks this functionality would be classified as a two at best - far from the level three or four suggested by Uber's videos, let alone the level-five Holy Grail of true autonomy that no company has yet reached.

It's not clear yet whether the backup driver or Uber will be charged with a crime.

Unfortunately, in this accident, the driver was not paying attention to the road, and was looking down moments before the collision.

"The focus, first and foremost, is on the road ahead", the spokesperson said. The NTSB said Uber was seeking to reduce "erratic vehicle behavior".

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