Experts Say Fatal Uber Autonomous Crash Was Avoidable

Certain autonomous vehicle experts claim that the fatal crash involving a self-driving Uber was avoidable.

Video released to the public graphically captures the moments before the Uber slammed into Elaine Herzberg crossing the road with her bicycle. A camera facing Uber operator Rafaela Vasquez shows her glancing down at her lap or the vehicle’s various screens just before the impact.

Upon viewing this footage, autonomous vehicle experts assert that the vehicle’s advanced sensors should’ve been able to detect Herzberg and had enough time to avoid the accident

Speaking to CNET, technology company Cortica revealed that it had run simulations and found that its artificial intelligence system detected Herzberg 0.9 seconds before the impact, roughly 50 feet prior to the collision, providing adequate time for an autonomous vehicle to react.

According to University of South Carolina law professor who studies autonomous vehicles, Bryant Walker, Uber’s systems had ample time to detect the victim.

“Although this video isn’t the full picture, it strongly suggests a failure by Uber’s automated driving system.

“The victim is obscured by darkness — but she is moving on an open road. Lidar and radar absolutely should have detected her and classified her as something other than a stationary object.”

Police in Tempe, Arizona are working with Uber, the US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the National Transportation Safety Board to determine who or what is to blame for the crash.


  • Jay

    Glad we have smart people out there..

    • cindydoo

      But that ‘smart’ person in the car was sadly some low paid person who did not pay attention to their primary role: intervene if the car fails as only a human can. “….looking down at her phone…

      • Jay

        I was referring to the “expert”. The person behind the wheel was not smart depending on this new technology and taking her attention off the road.

        • Stephen G

          Unless you have never ever ever taken your eyes off the road for even a split second then you should keep your comments to yoursel, also.

          • Jay

            Who doesn’t? You need to check you mirrors every 5-8 seconds silly.

          • Stephen G

            Exactly my point. It doesn’t matter what your doing or how long you did it, if your attention is not on the road it’s not on the road even if you’re checking mirrors.

          • Jay

            If you’ve driven a lot at all you’d know that when checking your mirrors the road is still visible in your peripheral view. However looking down like this driver did for as long as they did is a big no no. Have you taken a defensive driving course at all? I doubt it.

          • Stephen G

            I’m not excusing the driver for not paying attention I’m just saying that your eyes cannot be everywhere at all times. If you’re looking at your right side view mirror you cannot see your left A-pillar let alone a person that suddenly appears dressed in dark clothes in the darkness of night next to your left fender. Regardless of what the driver was doing, the pedestrian, who shouldn’t have been there, carelessly walked in front of a moving car. Would you walk in front of a moving car in anticipation that the driver will stop? Also, I’m guessing that people take defensive driving classes because they are court ordered, so I’ve never taken one. You?

          • Jay

            Don’t get me wrong I get what you’re saying. It’s just seems like you’re defending the driver here. Yes we look other places but for this driver to have their attention off the road for as long as they did played a big role on how this accident just as much as the car did. A lot of people feel as though it would have been a different outcome. I drive a bus and we needed to have defensive driver training amongst other things in order to start working. Maybe the court does mandate those classes for certain people but it should be mandatory for everyone. Imagine if everyone was a better driver. No texting or driving under the influence makes a big difference. Oh and to answer you other question no I would even walk in a crosswalk with out looking and making sure the cars see me before crossing. That was taught in the class as well but I never did it when I was younger.

          • Stephen G

            Agreed. And, I am defending the driver. She is being accused of involuntary manslaughter due to her negligence when in fact the negligence was on the part of the pedestrian. The driver is the victim here. I’m glad you lived long enough to take the class and learn not to walk in front of a moving vehicle. For most of people it’s just common sense. Also, driving a bus as you do for work, I hope you are never in that situation.

          • Jay

            She is not only a driver. She was also an employee. She was there to prevent an accident like this. When you are employed and you hit something at my job it’s your fault in most cases. So if a person or a car is in front of you you are in control of the vehicle not a system that can fail as it did here.

          • Stephen G

            You are saying without a shadow of a doubt if the person in the driver seat was paying 100% attention to driving the car that the pedestrian would not have been hurt or killed. I’m telling you that is not possible. If the incident had taken place at an intersection and the car ran a red light, I would say it was the driver fault. Other than that you cannot convince me. Let me just elaborate by asking if you’ve ever run over an animal while being alert? As a bus driver I’m guessing one day someone will step off a curb and bang people will be accusing you. It’s not right.

          • Jay

            What I and many people are saying is that if she was paying attention to the road with the car like she should have been the outcome would have been different. She could have hit the brakes or swerved to hit her all together. Or there could have still been impact and she may have survived. To answer your question yes. It would have been the drivers fault for not being able to stop in time. It sucks but that’s how it works. It would also be my fault if I stop too far from a curb and the person falls when trying to make a bridge when stepping from the bus step to the curb.

          • Stephen G

            You cannot say that if the driver saw the pedestrian that the outcome would have been different. The facts are that the car was driving itself, seeing everything around it. It had probably been driving for hours, and we can assume, WITHOUT THE DRIVER PAYING ATTENTION. So why did this happen…not because the car malfunctioned or because the driver didn’t see the pedestrian but because the pedestrian freely stepped in front of the car at the last possible second when no reaction could have possibly changed the situation. And for some reason it’s OK that the pedestrian didn’t see the car (?) but it’s not OK that the car and driver didn’t see the pedestrian.

          • Jay

            Why can’t I say that? That’s what I said. I and others feel that it it’s true. You’re facts are incorrect. The road is a wide and has four lanes including bicycle making it even wider. Therefore she just didn’t step out she was in the road for quite some time. That means the car had ample time but simply recognized her too late and still did nothing to prevent an accident. As for the driver, had she been looking at the well lit road it would’ve most likely been a different outcome.

          • Stephen G

            Just watched the video again. Your facts are wrong. The street is two narrow lanes, curbs on both sides and bushes in the median, very little lighting. The pedestrian suddenly pops out of the darkness. The car spotted the driver .9 sec before impact traveling at 40 mph. The driver looks away just before impact. I’m assuming the car was at max braking when it spotted the pedestrian. There were 5983 pedestrians killed by automobiles last year, 47% in the dark.
            You cannot speculate what could of happened if the driver was fully alert…the possibilities are endless.

          • Jay
          • Stephen G

            Don’t show me a picture of the crash site with many emergency response vehicles illuminating the scene to prove your point of it not being dark. And you can clearly see in your pics that the road was two cars wide. It doesn’t matter what the driver was doing “quite a few seconds before impact”, or a minute before impact or an hour before impact, she looked up and had just looked down (or checked her mirror) at impact. The fact is she was looking up a split second before impact. Watch the video.

          • Jay

            You can see the Emergency lights as well but it’s mostly orange from the street lights meaning it wasn’t dark. Also those seconds matter because it could’ve meant that she got to live on. She looked up when it was too late and there’s no getting around that. Good day.

          • Stephen G

            Watch the video.

          • Stephen G

            Just read “uber disabled standard collision avoidance technology feature” in the test car. Whole new ball of wax.

          • Jay

            What makes you think I watched it plenty. The video shows that it’s dark but everyone knows that video camera are terrible at night. They do not capture what the human eye can see. It isn’t a new ball of wax it only concretes the point that she should have been looking at the road.

          • Stephen G

            You said it…video cameras are terrible at night…like when it’s dark. It was clear that she looked and didn’t see the pedestrian. We don’t know if the driver was aware that the collision avoidance system was off and what her job instructions were. Also why were the brakes supposedly activated .9 before impart?

          • Jay

            Yes and just because she didn’t she her doesn’t mean it wasn’t her fault. If Someone hits a pothole it’s their fault, if someone slides on ice and hits someone or something it’s their fault. There’s not getting around this accident not being the drivers fault.

          • Stephen G

            The pedestrian was crossing the road ILLEGALLY on top of not exercising common sense. Her fault. If someone runs a red light and you hit them in an intersection, whether you’re looking or not, is it your fault?

          • Jay

            It doesn’t matter if she was crossing illegally if she could be seen. It’s like hitting a car parked illegally. Sure the car isn’t supposed to be there but it was and you should’ve seen it. If a car ran a light it would depend on the point of impact. Some of those accidents are 50/50.

          • Stephen G

            No, not 50/50, you can not be doing something illegal and expect to be compensated when the $hit hits the fan.

          • Jay

            Yes just research it. If a car ran a light and you they are almost past you but you continue to hit the gas and hit the back of their car you are now partly at fault because guess what they were in front on your for a good bit of time and you should have seen the car passing. This is why waymo programs their cars not to immediately go when a light changes green.

          • Jay

            I found this for you.

            Avoidance means that you have to do your best to avoid the accident. This doesn’t mean that you have to actually avoid the accident, it just means that you have to demonstrate that you tried. For example, if a car runs a red light as you are entering an intersection and you don’t brake or swerve to avoid hitting that car, then you are partially at fault, even though the other driver broke the law.

            The investigation is going to determine if she’s partially or fully at fault. She is one of the two.

          • Stephen G

            It’s already been determined that the brakes were applied .9 seconds before impact which proves there was an effort made to avoid the accident by the car/driver. And the video shows there was little to no amount of warning. Also the pedestrian practiced zero avoidance. She made a conscience decision to cross the street in a place that put her and possibly others in danger. Also if the car had performed adequately in the time leading to the incident then there is no reason for anyone to believe the car would perform otherwise at the time of the incident.

          • Jay

            That’s great so she did see her too late. Guess what. Still partly at fault since as stated earlier and shown in the video the woman was hit by the passenger side of the car.

      • Stephen G

        Unless you have never taken your eyes off the road for even a second then you should keep your opinion to yourself.

  • xDRAN0x

    It was bound to happen unfortunately.

    • LeStori

      In many ways yes.The technology has been rushed. But it has been rushed with good intentions by most. But by greed by others. In the USA soemthing like 40, 000 + people die “on the road” each year along with several people per death injured. It is a death industry along with firearms and cost the USA a fortune. From what I have read, the USA leads the developed world in car and firearm deaths per capita.

      • ChrisInIL

        Sure, let’s lump a completely different statistic into the calculation, ignore more relevant information like rates per number of automobiles, and inject a huge amount of flawed political philosophy. Then, and only after squinting, and leaning down and turning your head a bit can you arrive at the utterly ridiculous statement you provided.

  • Stephen G

    Very unfortunate incident. As far as article title…aren’t all crashes avoidable?

    • Jay

      Pretty much.

    • brn

      I HATE it when I see headlines indicating something was avoidable. Darn near everything is avoidable.

      • Perry F. Bruns

        …including that style of headline writing. 😉

  • TrevP

    Knew it

  • SteersUright

    Sad to hear. Poor daughter who has to hear all this avoidable/non-avoidable crap prior to the official investigation being completed.

    • LeStori

      Trial by Media is well and alive. No need for a Judge and a jury of your peers anymore.

  • ace_9

    I’m surprised how so many people trust these pioneering attempts at driving a car using something that for a common observer might in ideal conditions seem to be an artificial intelligence. I would not sit in any such car for at least the next 10 years. And even then it will probably just have much better sensors and computational speed, but not much of an intelligence to replace even mediocre driver.


    A lot of accidents are avoidable. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the courts.

  • LeStori

    That will be unfortunate… Unless you have shares in a both morgues and rehabilitation clinics in the USA.

  • salamOOn

    “Experts Say Fatal Uber Autonomous Crash Was Avoidable”

    you dont need experts for it…. and not even radars or sensors. there was at least 2 seconds for reaction… but you would need to look ahead of you, not on your phone….

    • Bo Hanan


  • Six_Tymes

    NO S. you idiot “experts”

  • krusshall

    University of South Carolina law professor who studies autonomous vehicles, Bryant Walker is one of the so-called experts? A law professor who studies autonomous vehicles?

  • Mike Sinyaboot

    Maybe the autonomous system and the driver should have seen the jaywalker but that should not matter. Based on both Arizona state law and local Tempe laws, the deceased was illegally crossing the street within 50-100ft of a designated, signaled crosswalk. It is tragic but her actions are responsible. I just don’t see how 0.9 seconds of reaction time would have made any bit of a difference.

    Arizona law specifically states that it is illegal to cross anywhere but a designated crosswalk.

    28-793. Crossing at other than crosswalk
    A. A pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles on the roadway.
    B. A pedestrian crossing a roadway at a point where a pedestrian tunnel or overhead pedestrian crossing has been provided shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles on the roadway.
    C. Between adjacent intersections at which traffic control signals are in operation, pedestrians shall not cross at any place except in a marked crosswalk.

    The city of Tempe has local laws that further hammer this home:
    Sec. 19-151. Crossing a roadway.
    NO pedestrian shall cross the roadway within the central business district other than within a marked or unmarked crosswalk.
    (b) Every pedestrian crossing a roadway outside of the central business district at any point other than within a marked or unmarked crosswalk
    shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway.
    (c) No pedestrian shall cross a roadway where signs or traffic control signals prohibit such crossing.

    • ace_9

      The point is that the car did not even attempt to swerve or brake hard. Which just points out how primitive, dangerous and buggy the current autonomous car technology really is. Anyone with a deeper knowledge of computer technology, algorithms, electronics, etc. knows that these systems are more of a wishful dream than real autonomous systems. It does not have even simple intelligence, cannot really learn, does not have reflexes, cannot act intuitively. Humans have two eyes, ears and their physical connection with the vehicle is really not that amazing. Yet, we still don’t really need to concentrate very hard all the time and we don’t need huge amounts of data for driving a car. It’s almost impossible to replicate this with predetermined, non self-modifiable complex software using unbelievable amounts of data from a wide array of sensors.
      Btw. your whole post seems like you want to simply say: Drivers (including autonomous) are not required to attempt to save a person, if this person is illegally crossing the street. Is that what you wanted to say? Because it seems… naive…

      • cindydoo

        What’s sad is that the human in the car, the tester, was not even attempting to pay attention…

  • Bo Hanan

    All Autonomous cars should be Female-proofed. Because I can’t count how many times a female has stepped in front of my car without even looking up. Females tend to think everybody is watching out for them. Even children are taught to look both ways. The person who died, unfortunately, probably had no idea it was an autonomous car approaching here.
    I never step unless I make eye contact with the driver. I see the changes being more cameras added to these cars to prove fault in these situations.

  • I’m not entirely sure how the autonomous technology works with the car’s own systems but why didn’t the Volvo itself do something? Was the car travelling to fast? Or was there not enough reaction time for the car to brake?

  • cindydoo

    Human in car testing was not watching – their purpose in car in not to just be a passenger. I would hold the tester responsible. We are trying to replace humans, while doing so, the humans must still pay attention. The tester had a responsibility that sadly was probably just a low paying job to the company instead of being the most important piece of the trial: the standard we are trying to equal…

  • brn

    Uber has a history of underpaying their employees and treating them like garbage. In this case, they only hired someone because the regulations told them they had to. Uber probably found a way to pay less than minimum wage, since the car was doing all the work.

    This is likely a case of you get what you pay for.

  • Status

    If you haven’t noticed, you cold-war throwback, the autonomous car is being entirely privately funded by big industry players. Karl Marx never saw this coming.

  • Dariush

    avoidable. Were the radars asleep?? we already know the idiot behind the wheel was having fun while he was supposed to pay attention..whatever…

  • Stephen D James

    Don’t look at the view from the camera on this car. The human eye, can see much better than that. In fact your looking from the roof camera, not Human Eye Level. The Back-up Driver, had the responsibility to cover any lack of action, this car was supposed to take. And did not. In fact, the Back-up Driver was Distracted. Strike -1. From the time, the roof camera, caught the person, to the time of impact, roughly was 1 second. Now a computer can react in a time like that of superman, but in this instance, it did not, ( Sensor Failure ) Strike 2. Strike -3 was the basic components to stop, Speed, Reaction, Braking, Inertia, Momentum. All 4 principles failed. By computer standards anyway. So now where does that go, The computer was supposed to look after this situation, even in a Distracted Driver predicament. We see that in commercials everyday, with someone walking across a road, and the car magically stops. Everyone breaths a breath of relief and life carries on. But this poor soul paid the ultimate price, of failure, EVERYWHERE.
    OK, so now lets bring it down to the Human Factor, if you were driving, your eyes would have adjusted to the conditions of light. The Camera did not. All you see is Black until the person is in the lights of the car, then you knew there was trouble.
    But had the driver, not been looking at the Monitor, even just a few seconds before, this person very much would have been alive. Why, because the Human Eye would have adjusted for the Light condition, and immediately began slowing the car down. Had the person continued to walk in front, the driver could have used the Horn pending the hit, Hit the brakes to stop, Before the person was hit.
    It happens when people J-walk with dark clothing. But if you were paying attention to your driving, even at night a Silhouette, possibly could have been seen, to tell your brain, something was on the road.
    I don’t blame UBER for this accident, I blame the Computer on 2 Counts, causing death, 1- the Sensors NOT reading a 180 degree area around the car, and the Computer, for not picking up on something, when it clearly should have. And 2ndly, I Blame the Back-Up Driver, for being Distracted enough, to have not seen what was going on around them. Street Lights are there for a reason, and if you look at the picture where the accident finished, you can clearly see Lights are there. So this persons eyes would have Been Adjusted to the Illumination of these lights. This person, did not have to die, a set of circumstances in the Worse Case Scenario did, by allowing this car to run on it’s own, and the Back-Up Driver, not doing the Job, they were sitting in. The Accident, was TOTALLY PREVENTABLE.

  • Perry F. Bruns

    Uber has a history of mistreating women.

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