Could a human driver have prevented self-driving Uber's pedestrian fatality?

Alicia Cross
March 24, 2018

Police are still investigating the incident, and have released a graphic dashcam video showing the moment Elaine Herzberg, 49, was hit by the Volvo SUV.

"That appears to be totally untrue", analyst Sam Abuelsamid, who's studied self-driving vehicles, told the Daily News.

She is quick to point out that while the lidar sensors came from Velodyne, it had nothing to do with the software that was in place to parse the information and as such, she couldn't say why it didn't work.

She looks up in shock right before the auto fatally slams into Herzberg, who was walking with a bike.

This is notable because one of Uber's self-driving cars hit and killed a pedestrian while in full autonomous mode in Tempe, Arizona, on Sunday night.

A video published by police yesterday raises some serious questions about Uber's driverless-car technology.

'It absolutely should have been able to pick her up, ' he said.

'The victim did not come out of nowhere, ' Bryant Walker Smith, a University of SC law professor who studies autonomous vehicles, said.

'She's moving on a dark road, but it's an open road, so Lidar (laser) and radar should have classified her as a human'.

But the experts said it appears from the video that there was some sort of flaw in Uber's self-driving system.

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The company said its system detected Herzberg 0.9 seconds before impact when the auto was about 50 feet away.

Smith also suggested that a human driver may have avoided the crash. "That means an alert driver may have at least attempted to swerve or brake".

The San Francisco Chronicle reports Tempe police chief Sylvia Moir as saying,"The driver said it was like a flash, the person walked out in front of them". One of the biggest challenges in the development of autonomous technology has been giving it the ability to detect pedestrians from cars, bushes, and paper bags.

Thune, who chairs the science committee, said in a statement Thursday that the crash underscores the need to adopt laws and policies tailored to self-driving vehicles.

"The video is disturbing and heartbreaking to watch, and our thoughts continue to be with Elaine's loved ones", Uber said in an emailed statement. "Uber is cooperating with local and national authorities and Volvo is assisting in these investigations". The paper also said that Vasquez "identifies as Rafaela". I believe autonomous vehicles have considerable benefits which will lead to far greater safety on the road. And they don't get drunk or distracted or suffer from poor eyesight.

"That's hard to avoid", Selman said.

After the crash, groups like Vision Zero, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and other safety-minded organizations urged the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation to pause consideration of Thune's proposal until the Tempe crash investigation is completed.

Uber first launched its self-driving auto program onto public roads in Pittsburgh back in September 2016.

Abuelsamid said a perfectly autonomous vehicle is still 10 to 15 years away, but there needs to be some regulation in the meantime.

"The greater risk for the industry is that if people feel it is unsafe, or the testing is unsafe, you'll see a real backlash against this technology", Matthew Johnson-Roberson, co-director of the University of Michigan Ford Center for Autonomous Vehicles, told Reuters.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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