In the early morning hours of Monday, March 19, 2018, a fully-automated Uber vehicle struck a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. The 49-year-old female initially battled her quickly-depleting health, but later died at a hospital in Tempe.
Many people might think, upon first glance, that the unmanned Uber vehicle was unarguably at fault for the crash. Since when can cars drive themselves, right?
In actuality, even though the vehicle wasn’t being driven by anyone, an alert, trained driver was behind the wheel, but even she couldn’t stop the crash from happening. Local regulations in Tempe require all moving vehicles to have an alert, licensed driver behind the steering wheel; even if they didn’t, Uber still finds human drivers as a necessary, added layer of safety.
The self-steering, -braking, and -accelerating Volvo XC90 SUV was traveling at roughly 38 miles per hour in a 35 mph speed zone. Before calling “speeding robot!” think about how you and most other people on the road travel at least a handful of your odometer’s tick marks above the speed limit. 38 miles per hour in such a situation was entirely reasonable.
So, here’s what happened – a pedestrian entered a crosswalk with a bicycle and several plastic shopping bags, failing to watch out for traffic, when the self-driving Volvo XC90 struck the 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg.
The collision occurred at night, and the side of the road Herzberg shot out from was undeniably dark. Neither the human driver nor Uber’s self-driving intellectual property detected Herzberg in time. The woman presented herself in front of the Uber so quickly that police inspection of the Uber’s two cameras resulted in police claiming that “[Herzberg] came from the shadows right into the roadway.”
Tempe police agreed that how quickly she moved into the roadway made the collision practically impossible to avoid.
Nobody knows if Tempe, Arizona, police are going to release the front and rear cams on the self-driving Uber-branded Volvo. No passengers were inside the vehicle, and the case is still being investigated.