The human driver believed to act as fail-safe for an autonomous Uber car that struck and killed a woman in Tempe, Ariz., Has been charged with negligence. homicide by local authorities, Associated Press reports. The 2018 crash was the first recorded case of a pedestrian killed by an autonomous car.
Phoenix officials have officially charged Rafaela Vasquez with the negligent homicide of Elaine Herzberg, the 49-year-old Tempe resident who was killed while cycling through Mill Avenue. The car in question – which was traveling within the 45 mph speed limit at the time of the crash – was operating in autonomous mode with Vasquez acting as the safety operator while Uber tested the new technology within Tempe . No additional passengers were on board.
Investigators found Autonomous AI contained a handful of “security and design flaws,” including the inability to respond appropriately to jaywalkers. As a result, Uber’s software didn’t apply the brakes until it was too late for the car to avoid a collision. These were the exact kind of extenuating circumstances that security operators like Vazquez were supposed to mitigate.
In the moments leading up to the crash, interior dash camera footage indicated Vasquez repeatedly looking away from the road and turning to his knees. While Vasquez initially refuse using any electronic device while driving, data provided by Hulu to the police shown that Vasquez was showing episodes of “The Voice” a few minutes before the crash. According to Hulu archives, it stopped broadcasting just a minute before the autonomous vehicle hit Herzberg.
She pleaded not guilty to the homicide charges, according to the AP.
Although he managed to avoid criminal liability, some of the blame also applies to Uber. As information sketch at the time, Uber chief executive Robbie Miller spent the days leading up to the crash trying to warn other senior executives that the company’s autonomous vehicles were “in regular accidents causing damage” and that some of the drivers hired did not appear to have been properly vetted or trained.
Meanwhile, federal investigators from the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found that the Uber team responsible for the Tempe-based test program had failed to comply with some of the basic protective measures placed on them. , such as the integration of dedicated security personnel. Uber’s autonomous vehicles were involved in two previous crashes by the NTSB for failing to accurately identify a given hazard. At the time, Uber’s autonomous fleet had been involved in 37 crashes since the prpgram. has begun in the fall of 2016.
Despite these crashes, Bloomberg found that Uber decided, just five months before one of its cars ended Elaine Herzberg’s life, to reduce the number of human drivers protecting these two-to-one vehicle tests. Contemporary to the resulting lawsuit, Uber fired 100 of its autonomous vehicle security operators, replacing them 55 with what is called “mission specialists, ”And by completely overhauling its safety protocols for the two safety drivers initially mandated by vehicle.
Uber has since moved in with the Herzberg family for a undisclosed amount
Currently, Uber operates autonomous vehicles in Pittsburgh, San Fransisco, Toronto, Washington, DC and Dallas. It is not known whether visibility played a role in Uber’s AI inability to respond to a pedestrian around 10 p.m. local time; its currently tested cities only allow vehicles on their roads in limited numbers and only during the day.