December 3, 2023

Uber’s self-driving vehicle that hit and killed pedestrians in March of 2018 had serious software faults, which included the inability to recognize pedestrians who were jaywalking, according to the NTSB. According to the NTSB, the US safety agency claimed Uber’s software didn’t identify the victim, 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, as a pedestrian walking along the street. It didn’t consider the possibility of colliding against her for 1.2 seconds prior to the impact when it was too late to stop.

Surprisingly, The NTSB found that Uber’s system “did not include a consideration for jaywalking pedestrians.” In addition, the car triggered the braking process for one second in order to find an alternative route and let the driver have control. (Uber has since canceled the feature as part of an update to their software.)

The system did detect the pedestrian for nearly six seconds prior to impact … It has never considered her a pedestrian due to the fact that she was crossing the point where there was no crosswalk. The system didn’t have an option for pedestrians who were jaywalking.

Uber’s automated test vehicles could not have been able to detect road dangers in two other instances in the report. In one example, in one of the cases, a car slammed into the bicycle lane sign, which had sunk into an unpaved road. In another incident, an emergency driver was compelled to control the vehicle to avoid the oncoming vehicle and ended up hitting the car that was parked. In the period before the fatal crash, Uber test cars had been involved in 37 accidents, among them 33 instances where other vehicles hit the Uber test vehicles.

When Uber returned to testing in December of 2018, it utilized significantly updated software. As per the NTSB, Uber did a simulation of the new system based on sensors that were collected from the deadly Arizona accident. It concluded that it would detect the pedestrian 289 feet before the impact and the time to brake for four seconds prior to hitting at 43.2 mph. The standard stopping distance for humans is approximately 130 feet at this speed, which includes reaction time, which makes it probable that the car could have been capable of stopping at the same distance.

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