Self-Driving Uber Detected Pedestrian But Failed To Brake In Fatal Crash

Uber’s self-driving vehicle involved in a fatal impact on March 18 detected an object in the road six seconds before the crash.

In a preliminary report published by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), it was concluded that the self-driving software classified 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg as an unknown object, then as a vehicle, and finally as a bicycle as the two converged.

At just 1.3 seconds before the collision, the self-driving system determined that emergency braking was needed. However, automatic emergency braking maneuvers are not enabled when the vehicle is in self-driving mode and the human operator is relied on to intervene and respond.

Weirdly, “the system is not designed to alert the operator,” the NTSB report states.

The crash raised safety concerns about self-driving vehicles

During interviews with the NTSB, the vehicle operator said she had been monitoring the self-driving interface prior to the impact. She engaged the steering wheel less than a second before impact and began braking less than a second after impact.

The NTSB seems to lay partial blame on the pedestrian as well. It was concluded that she didn’t look in the direction of the vehicle until just before impact, her bicycle didn’t have side reflectors and she crossed the road in a section without road lighting. Additionally, post-accident toxicology results were positive for methamphetamine and marijuana.

Shortly before the NTSB published its report, the ride-hailing company confirmed that it had suspended its autonomous test program in Arizona.

  • Howstar

    They need to do an ‘air crash investigation’ style documentary on this

  • Sébastien

    Blaming the victime, sure that will help self driving improve…. /S

    • Howstar

      A victim high on crystal meth and weed?
      Maybe the car did make an ethical choice…

      • Felix Le Forestier

        You mean it’s ok killing drug consumers?

        • Howstar


    • Stephen G

      There were two victims. Please be more specific about which victim you’re referring.

    • BlackPegasus

      The only ‘victim’ here was the technology that was blamed for human stupidity. Stupid Humans with Uber who turned off the emergency braking, and the stupid human female who consumed crystal meth before walking in front of a moving car.

      Technology was vindicated after the release of this report.

      • salamOOn

        but increased safety for everyone is the main agenda of autonomous driving…. and its still false agenda at this moment.

        • BlackPegasus

          Wtf? How is it a “false agenda?” Are you suggesting there is another more nefarious reason for the development of autonomous technology?

          • salamOOn

            no, its more simple. i am suggesting that this technology is still not safe for everyday use.

            btw for this technology should be irrelevant that human used drugs “before walking in front of a moving car.”

  • Stephen G

    How about the bicyclist’s family…allowing their own mother/grandmother live on the street, purchase and ingest uncontrolled substances? They should be locked up!

    • Status

      That’s not a criminal offence in any jurisdiction. A person cannot be fined for their mother/grandmother drug addiction or living conditions.

      • Stephen G

        Are you saying if something isn’t illegal then it’s OK to do?

        • Status

          Are you saying that the family should be responsible and subject to legal challenges for a narcotic addiction that a family member has developed?

          Should you be subject to legal challenges if your mother becomes addicted to huffing gasoline?

          • Stephen G

            You didn’t answer my question.

          • Status

            Abusing narcotics isn’t illegal. Their use, however, is illegal.

            What was your question anyway?

  • BlackPegasus

    There are two new details here from this accident.

    1. The woman was a meth addict who walked directly in front of the vehicle in the dark of night with no reflective clothing nor lighting on the bike.

    2. Emergency braking maneuvers were not enabled while the car was in autonomous mode. But WHY?

    – it appears the decision was made to turn OFF emergency braking while self driving was on, opting to rely on the human driver as a safe fail. The report says the system detected the homeless woman 6 seconds before impact but was not able to brake because the system was turned off.

    My conclusion: HUMAN ERROR – The technology works! Six seconds is enough time to both brake or swerve to avoid a pedestrian. If the system was allowed to do what it was designed for, it would’ve stopped but somewhere, somehow, a HUMAN made the decision to disable the emergency braking.

    • Status

      I agree with you 100%. Unfortunately, most people who read of this accident think of autonomous cars as actively hunting down and killing people which has never been documented.

      The narrative they WANT to hear is different than what the investigation has determined. It’s easier for them to hold onto the killer car story than it is to digest the ‘disabled emergency braking + jaywalking + no reflectors’ story.

      One story makes you feel vindicated and fearful of non-consumer technology that is still in a testing phase, and the other is the result of human error.

      It took me years to shake off the immediate feeling of a gut reaction and to look at evidence as given. I just wish more people would do the same.

    • Six_Tymes

      they make us the guinea pigs, i’m not a supporter of that, you shouldn’t be either. and to detail of her possibly being a “meth addict” that’s pretty disgusting to make that your first number 1 point. callous testing is going on, be smart, don’t support that. the proof is right in front of you.

  • Six Thousand Times

    Carscoops is working hard with its headlines to discredit autonomous cars.

    • BlackPegasus

      I noticed the biased headline as well.

      • LJ

        Elon, is that you?

    • Stephen G

      So Donald, you think the media should stop reporting facts?

      • Six_Tymes

        So Hillary are you still accepting millions in jewels from murders?

        • Stephen G

          So you only want facts that align with your opinion?

          • Six_Tymes

            that was the most nonsensical mishmash of babble I have ever read.

          • Stephen G

            I will explain it then. The first part was sarcasm driven by frustration. The second part was an explanation of what happens to the gifts given to this country.

      • DMax

        I think they should start.

        • Stephen G

          If you feel strongly that this website prints mistruthes then maybe you not visit.

      • Six Thousand Times

        Well, when you read the actual article, it was just a little more complicated than the headline shouted it out to be, chief. Or did you not read it and just have your insult ready?

    • Brent Morrison

      Unless it is Tesla because we know that autopilot would have not let this happen…. But killing the driver instead. Tesla is the safest car company in the world.


    Well this pretty much just proves that all of this could have been avoided. Yes, I do blame the pedestrian partially but I also blame the system to a certain degree.

    My main reason for that is this:

    Weirdly, “the system is not designed to alert the operator,” the NTSB report states.

    That needs to change. It has to alert the operator because this has clearly demonstrated that people can’t react in time.

  • Brent Morrison

    The vehicle operator is a woman? wtf

  • David Lee

    What people don’t understand is that the car has gained consciousness and WANTED to kill the cyclist. Sorry, too soon?

    • Status

      Computers gaining consciousness is fiction and always has been. Did you watch Terminator a lot when you were a kid?

      • David Lee

        Did my joke fly over your head?

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