Uber’s Autonomous Vehicles Had 37 Crashes Before Arizona’s Fatal Accident

In March 2018, a Volvo XC90 equipped with Uber autonomous technology hit and killed a pedestrian, 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, in Arizona. Since then, it took nine months for the company’s autonomous fleet to get back on the road, and, according to head of Uber Advanced Technologies Group Eric Meyhofer, they have implemented a series of changes to improve the safety of its self-driving vehicles.

However, according to CNBC, it has now emerged that Uber’s prototypes were implicated in a quite high number of incidents preceding the one in Arizona. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said on Tuesday, November 5, that Uber Technologies autonomous test vehicles were involved in 37 crashes in the 18 months before the March 2018 accident.

In particular, the board said between September 2016 and March 2018, there were 37 crashes of Uber vehicles operating in autonomous mode at the time, including 33 that involved another vehicle striking said test vehicles. In one incident, the test vehicle struck a bent bicycle lane bollard that partially occupied the test vehicle’s lane of travel. In another, the operator took control to avoid a rapidly approaching oncoming vehicle that entered its lane, steered clear but, unfortunately, struck a parked car. The NTSB will hold a probable cause hearing on the crash on November 19.

Also Read: Uber And Volvo Unveil Production-Ready, Fully Autonomous XC90

As for the fatal accident, the Yavapai County Attorney declared that there was no basis for criminal liability against Uber. The Attorney’s Office examined the case at the request of Maricopa County, where the accident happened, but hasn’t explained the reasoning behind their decision.

Prosecutors did say that the back-up driver behind the wheel of the semi-autonomous vehicle, Rafaela Vasquez, should be referred to the Tempe police for additional investigation. The Yavapai County Attorney’s Office has also called for further expert analysis of video from the crash to determine what Vasquez would have been able to see.

Uber has declined to comment about the prosecutor’s decision. However, the ride-hailing company still has a number of federal inquiries, lawsuits, and other things to deal with, as both the National Transportation Safety Board and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration continue to investigate the fatal accident.

  • Ben

    Wow.

  • Six_Tymes

    I knew that company is horrible. just look at its owners and main share holders. scum. that poor lady, horrifying way to die. shame the scummy lawyers talked her family into settling.

  • robotlogic

    Supposedly, it was dark, poorly lit area and she crossed in front of the Volvo without being in a crosswalk.
    If the exact same set of circumstances happened to a human driver would they of been charged with anything?

  • MarketAndChurch

    There were probably that many crashes in that very city on that exact same day. This is not a bad statistic relative to non-autonomous cars.

    • Paulbe

      Increasing the crash rate by 100% through adding in driverless cars sounds like a great deal.

    • if USAmerica HUMANs end up killing 32,000 humans a year, should we be happy that robot cars only kill 30,000, thus saving 2,000 lives? duh.

      • HD

        Shouldn’t we be? This is the exact way governments trying to improve road safety each year. Deaths are statistics, a nearly 10% improvement would be great, but we expect much more from autonomous cars.

        • It’s hilarious to watch people’s mind churn when you ask them this question, however. Unless we have catastrophic event, AV’s should NOT GET WORSE… but people really don’t improve, either. Eventually we should be able to drive paper mâché (not steel) bodied cars 100+ mph, SAFELY. I mean statistically SAFE or as safe as can be. Dare we say uncrashable? Might not be able to avoid fast moving deer, etc.

  • FordMopar

    Uber and autonomous driving are two worse things together! Can’t both just go the F away? Autonomous driving will never be perfect. They need to stop rushing it. 50 years from now, it will be. I’d be dead by then so I wouldn’t have to deal with it.

  • raikkonen

    The statistic of how many crashes is irrelevant; the statistic of how many were the direct and solely attributable fault of the autonomous cars is…

  • hard to crash an XC90, with autonomous tech and a driver… I’d to know what went wrong. Volvo’s safety systems were probably off, the Uber tech not good enough, and the driver not on full alert, even if he was, a human is not a machine, if he’s not the one driving and expecting tech to work… his reaction time can’t be good. Unless you hire racing drivers no driver is fast enough to react fast enough most of the time.

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