Volvo’s Own Autonomous Tech Could Have Saved Arizona Woman

Uber’s self-driving vehicle that struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona back in March may have been able to avoid the crash had the ride-hailing company not disabled Volvo’s own safety systems.

In a recent report, the IIHS criticized Uber for turning off the XC90’s collision-avoidance tech, with the insurer group’s chief research officer David Zuby stating that the Swedish SUV could have prevented or mitigated the crash.

“I think it’s possible that, had the system been able to intervene, the fatality may not have occurred,” said Zuby in a phone interview with Automotive News.

“I would argue that if developers of self-driving technology really intend to make our roads safer, they had better make sure they have the best crash-avoidance systems in place before they go out on the road.”

In a preliminary report in May, the NTSB concluded that the vehicle’s sensors actually detected the female pedestrian, although according to Uber, the car’s automatic emergency braking maneuvers weren’t enabled so as to reduce the potential for “erratic vehicle behavior” while under computer control.

“Uber decided to forgo a safety net in its quest to teach an unproven computer-control system how to drive,” concluded Zuby in IIHS’ report.

The Arizona incident spurred Uber’s suspension of public road testing as far as its self-driving vehicles are concerned, raising questions regarding the company’s tech as well as its protocols when it comes to human backup drivers.

A recent report however has the ride-hailing giant resuming its autonomous vehicle tests in Pittsburgh, and possibly San Francisco, too, this month.

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  • Six_Tymes

    “had the ride-hailing company not disabled Volvo’s own safety systems.”

    I had a hunch. absolutely disgusting that uber would choose to put people lives at risk to push their own r&d. where and when did uber do their own testing prior? that case where the poor women was killed should never have been settled so quickly. anyone who supports a company like uber should be ashamed. seriously, where is the outrage? this deserves it.

  • Kash

    I have to agree that disabling the safety features was a horrible decision, but I get why they did it. They didn’t want to rely on someone else’s tech, they were working on developing their own and I can only imagine what kind of problems would have arisen from keeping Volvo’s tech active as well as conflicts with the R&D. That’s why there was a driver in the car, I can’t really say I blame Uber for what happened, it was the driver who chose to watch TV instead of paying attention to the road and Uber is taking all the blame, this accident was the result of one employee’s actions, but we’ve hardly heard about that employee, the blame has fallen completely on Uber and that isn’t completely fair.

    If that single employee had been doing their job they could’ve prevented this, at the same time Uber should’ve done more to make sure their employees were paying attention while in the test cars.

  • benT

    That’s been obvious from the second the accident happened. In order for Uber ego to be fully tested the Volvo gear had to be turned off.
    Uber shluber, what a pack of goons

  • Stephen G

    Next headline should be…Arizona Woman Could Have Saved Herself

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