Uber Reaches Settlement Over Fatal Autonomous Crash

The first fatal crash involving a fully autonomous vehicle had the potential to become a landmark legal case but Reuters reports Uber has reached a settlement with the daughter of Elaine Herzberg.

The news comes exactly one week after the victim’s daughter retained the law firm of Bellah Perez PLLC. Details of the settlement were not announced but Cristina Perez Hesano, an attorney at the firm, said “the matter has been resolved” and they won’t have any further comment.

Uber’s decision to settle isn’t surprising as the company has been under intense scrutiny ever since the fatal accident occurred in Tempe, Arizona earlier this month. The company has also been hammered by bad publicity as crash footage showed the safety driver of the Volvo XC90 was looking down seconds before impact. A handful of experts also blamed Uber’s technology for failing to notice Herzberg and Arizona’s governor recently suspended the company’s autonomous testing program in the state indefinitely.

Given the never ending cycle of bad news, Uber apparently wanted the issue to go away quickly and quietly. As a result, the company appears to have settled the issue even before a lawsuit was filed. This may have been a wise move as a lengthily legal battle would have allowed for discovery and a closer examination of Uber’s autonomous driving technology.

While Uber no longer has to worry about a lawsuit, the National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the accident as they try to determine the “operating condition of the vehicle, driver interaction with the vehicle and opportunities for the vehicle or driver to detect … the pedestrian.” The investigation is still in the early stages and the latest update from the NTSB indicated they were in the process of examining the vehicle and collecting all relevant data from the crash.

  • LWOAP

    Well, I guess that other guy was right. It would be an out of court settlement after all. Somehow I feel as though this won’t be the last we hear of this story.

    • brn

      If it’s not the last we hear of it, someone might have to return their settlement.

  • Liam Paul

    god please don’t let these death machines on public roads

    • Are you referring to human drivers? Do you realize that we kill over a million people in car accidents a YEAR? The safety record of even the most primitive autonomous cars are better, we need machines to protect us from ourselves.

      • LJ

        Remember that when they take your job.

        • lousydead

          doesnt mean they arent safer.

        • Status

          Then don’t ever put yourself in a position where a machine can do your job in the first place.

          The fact is if a machine can do your job faster, reliably, and for less money than you can, then you shouldn’t have made it a point in your life to put yourself at a competitive disadvantage when up against a systematized and inter-connected network of logistical and operational efficiency that leverages its resources from all over the world.

      • Jay

        No we need to better ourselves.

        • lousydead

          We are, by including this tech in cars.

          • Jay

            This tech is a good idea but people will depend on it and continue to lose their lives. We still need to use common sense and look out for the tech too. Keep hands on the wheel, hover your foot over the brake and watch the road. Unfortunately many will not do that.

        • Status

          Humans cannot be taught to be better at driving than that of a computer.

          • Jay

            I disagree.

          • Status

            You should agree. How much do you leverage your argument on the basis of further education into an already overtaxed brain?

          • Jay

            We’ve went over this. A computer is only as smart as a human can program. It can learn but it still would need a human therefore it will never be as good.

          • Status

            And when computers can write their own software, then where will you be?

          • Jay

            Dead hopefully.

          • Sébastien

            Wrong, a computer is as good as a human BUT with instant access to tons of data to take consistent decisions on the fly, a human would have to go do long research…
            Definitely a win for computer at driving and many other tasks.

          • Jay

            His argument was that it would be better not as good…

          • Sébastien

            Well they are better than us, because more focused, more efficient and the do scale better too

          • I suggest you learn about AI, you lack of basic comprehension.

          • Jay

            You may lack common sense.

          • Craig

            Don’t waste your time on ‘Status’. He’s proven time and time again to be nothing but a jackass.

          • Status

            And you’re much better Craig, running in fear your own self-described ‘tech nerds’?

            If there was any phrase that described the ignorant and irrational fear of a future you can’t be bothered wrap your head around, you said it yourself.

            Of course, you’re always deleting your own comments when I do respond to you. Perhaps that too is a fear response.

          • Craig

            Like I said…. a jackass.

          • Status

            If it makes you feel better, you can always say it again.

            Do it.

          • Craig

            You’re a jackass.

          • Status

            See this shoulder here? Anytime your need to cry on it, it’s right here for you, babe.

            Just let all those tears out.

          • Craig

            I’d love to meet you in person.

          • Status

            There there. No more tears. No more tears.

      • fgclolz

        Not a good comparison. You’re comparing years/decades of people driving vs machines. We will never know that until machines have been driving on the road for the same amount of time. It may get better down the road but for now I don’t trust them.

        • Status

          Have you heard of machine learning? Did you know the data an autonomous car gathers in it’s operational life can be used to inform future generations of the software? That data can pooled from 10 or 100’s of other autonomous cars collectively and that further reduce the time the software needs to learn how to drive.

          This will take a lot less time to perfect than someone who has been driving for decades.

          • lousydead

            we will see fleets of AV’s in the next few years.

          • fgclolz

            Yep, totally heard of it. It’s actually scary if you think about it but I ain’t getting into that.

        • lousydead

          except they can learn exponentially faster than us, every single on of them.

    • Jason Miller

      What Kurt said. FAR more people die every day behind the wheel of regular cars.

    • lousydead

      they will be far safer than human drivers in urban conditions, dont be afraid.

  • TrevP

    I want to know how much they offered to the daughter

    • LJ

      ONE MEELLION DAHLLERZ.

  • Jason Panamera

    Cool story. A homeless woman with no contact with family and now a settlement.

  • ErnieB

    Now folks .. don’t go tripping your wives in front of these cars all at once now!

    • brn

      Should we make a schedule?

  • Status

    The daughter never had a chance in court. Uber would have exhausted her resources and she would be forced to withdraw his case. This money will keep pay for the loss of her mother, and prevent Uber from being exposed to any future court challenges from the daughter.

    As I said last week, it’s not always fair or the right thing to do, but Uber could either offer her a settlement or drag the case on longer than the daughter can afford to.

    • Jay

      They did it out of court because they knew their driver was at fault anyway. Otherwise they would’ve dragged it out in court.

      • Status

        Perhaps. Although there could be conditional agreements attached to the settlement that would state (something to the effect) “while not admitting any wrongdoing, signing this agreement protects Uber Technologies Inc., its subsidiaries, its employees, subcontractors etc: from further legal challenges concerning or directly related to the aforementioned matter as described on the date of XX at the intersection of YY in Tempe Arizona.”

        Dragging it out, apart from burdening the daughter with legal costs she would be unable to pay, could also further stain Uber’s public image. Any update from the press about the case would only further associate Uber and ‘killer autonomous car’ until the public was largely convinced of a narrative that ‘Uber killed the mother with an autonomous car’. Some members of the public already think that, but the longer it stays fresh in the public consciousnesses, the worse it would be for Uber.

        It probably came down to a dollar amount that considered the loss of a life from a similar tech company to what kind of damage could this do to Uber Technologies Inc. and it subsidiaries in the long term.

        The inattentiveness of the driver could very well have contributed to the accident, but so could the jay-walking mother. A lawyer for the mother could argue that the driver was distracted, but conversely a lawyer for Uber could argue that the mother was jay-walking. Really, there isn’t much room to assign ‘fault’, but the optics before the dash cam video was released made Uber look criminal, and such the rush to declare Uber at fault would have been premature.

        If both facts (distracted driver and jay-walking mother) were declared in a document of agreed upon facts signed by both parties, it’s likely sealed in the settlement agreement that both factors were at play and both contributed to the accident. That way, the ‘fault’ lies in some nebulous and indeterminate region between both parties of which neither can say they were completely innocent nor completely culpable.

        If that’s the case, then I expect that shortly after this matter is closed and the cheque is cashed, the driver will be sacked for exposing the company to a huge legal threat and damage to their public image.

  • D3X

    Why not? Still charge the same insurance, but less payout to actual accidents due to reduced amount of collisions (autonomous system is still phenomenally less than human drivers). There’s no fault insurance, when or if a car cause a fatal crash, the car company takes ownership of the fault and settlement costs. It’s like receiving money for free!!

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