Uber's self driving vehicle hits and kills a 49 year old woman in Tempe, Arizona

A 49 year old woman hit and killed by Uber’s self driving vehicle in Tempe, Arizona

Mar 20, 2018 | by Iqtidar Ali

A 49 year old woman was killed after being hit by one of Uber’s self-driving vehicles in Tempe, Arizona yesterday.

According to early reports, the vehicle was in autonomous or self-driving mode at the time of accident — although a human driver was present behind the steering wheel but was unable to control the situation.

Update to the Story: Tempe Police releases Uber’s car camera footage of this fatal incident

Immediately after the incident Uber suspended it’s self-driving tests at all locations. Arizona Police is further investigating the matter and according to an official statement by Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi they are cooperating with local law enforcement to understand the incident;

The apparent failure of the self-driving technology has yet again sparked a furious discussion across social media channels worldwide. A group of people is in favor of dropping the whole concept of autonomous vehicles behind us, some think we should give technology another chance.

In reality statistics show that in 2016 alone there were 37,461 deaths in 34,436 motor vehicle crashes that makes up a 102 fatalities per day (according to NHTSA data). Self driving related crashes are far less than human driver errors but the technology is not yet widely adopted to compare actual statistics.

Arizona state has allowed companies to test their self-driving vehicles without a human driver present behind the steering wheel. Waymo’s self driving cars use this permission for testing their capability of going fully autonomous.

According to New York Times — California is also expected to allow full self driving cars to be tested without a human present in driver’s seat. But after yesterday’s heartening incident it’s yet to be seen what impact it will have on the next set of policies devised around testing self driving cars.

Last year Audi became the first company to get a license for testing self driving vehicles in New York.

Following comment by /u/SamsonFox on Reddit’s /r/Cars is getting the most upvotes and seems to present popular sentiment regarding the saddening event;

– The Uber car was travelling northbound; the pedestrian was travelling from west to east
– However, as this clip shows, it’s the right side of the car that suffered damage, so the pedestrian probably didn’t immediately step out before it
– The pedestrian island from which the pedestrian steps does have trails for someone, so it looks like crossing is at least implied
– There is a damaged bicycle at the scene, yet the older report of a cyclist are dismissed – which begs a question of how a bicycle got there; perhaps, the pedestrian was pushing it?

Overall, I’d like to see more details, but to me the fact that it was the right side of the vehicle that got damaged when the pedestrian crossed from left to right is pretty curious.

PS. If the lady was really pushing the bicycle, then it could have fooled computer vision algorithms into thinking that she was something other than a pedestrian, and, say, a car. Which opens a pretty interesting line of inquiry, as computer vision algorithms typically are pretty good at distinguishing pears from apples, but can fail spectacularly if they encounter a man in a panda suit playing a banjo in process.

PPS. The woman in question was a 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, which makes the whole “drunk concert goer” angle not very likely, IMO.

Iqtidar Ali
[email protected]

Iqtidar Ali is a long time web developer and now writing for his childhood passion 'cars' further boosted by the advent of electric vehicles especially Tesla.

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