Update: Following the fatal crash, in which a self-driving Uber car killed a 49-year-old woman in Arizona, the local police department has released footage of the moments leading up to the accident.
The 20-second footage, which comes from Tempe police, shows the woman appearing suddenly in view on the exterior camera, and the video stops just before the moment of impact. The video then switches to the on-board camera showing footage of the safety driver.
Tempe Police Vehicular Crimes Unit is actively investigating
the details of this incident that occurred on March 18th. We will provide updated information regarding the investigation once it is available. pic.twitter.com/2dVP72TziQ
— Tempe Police (@TempePolice) March 21, 2018
The tweet reads: «Tempe Police Vehicular Crimes Unit is actively investigating the details of this incident that occurred on March 18th. We will provide updated information regarding the investigation once it is available.»
Original story contines below
Following a fatal crash involving one of Uber’s autonomous vehicles in the US, the city’s police chief has said that it’s unlikely the car was at fault.
The victim, 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, was hit by the vehicle when it was reportedly travelling 38mph in a 35mph zone. According to early police investigations, she suddenly stepped into the road pushing a bicycle and the car, which was in self-driving mode, made no attempt to brake.
READ NEXT: Driverless cars of the future — how far away are we from autonomous cars?
“It’s very clear it would have been difficult to avoid this collision in any kind of mode based on how she came from the shadows right into the roadway,” Tempe police chief Sylvia Moir told the San Francisco Chronicle.
“The driver said it was like a flash, the person walked out in front of them…His first alert to the collision was the sound of the collision.”
Video of Uber suspends self-driving car tests after pedestrian killed
According to the police department, the incident happened in a poorly lit area, less than 100 metres away from a pedestrian crossing. “It is dangerous to cross roadways in the evening hour when well-illuminated, managed crosswalks are available,” Moir added.
In the 3 million autonomous miles Uber’s driverless fleet has racked up, this is apparently only the second time one of the cars has been involved in a road traffic incident. In the previous collision, in which an Uber vehicle ended up on its side, the driver of the other vehicle involved was found to be responsible.
See related Ford wants you to share driverless cars by 2021 Waymo ditches human safety drivers to launch a truly autonomous taxi service Elon Musk says Tesla Autopilot reduces crashes by 50%
However, Herzberg’s death is the first pedestrian fatality associated with an autonomous car and Uber announced yesterday it was suspending testing of all its driverless cars in North American cities.
What’s more, Toyota has similarly halted tests of its “Chauffeur” autonomous vehicles on public US roads.
As Bloomberg reports, the Japanese company has said it will temporarily put a stop to tests in the wake of the crash, but is stopping short of making claims about the future of the autonomous car industry:
“We cannot speculate on the cause of the incident or what it may mean to the automated driving industry going forward,” a spokesperson for the company said. “Because we feel the incident may have an emotional effect on our test drivers, we have decided to temporarily pause our Chauffeur mode testing on public roads.”
READ NEXT: Who’s to blame when driverless cars have an accident?
The Toyota Research Institute had been tested its “Chauffeur” autonomous vehicles in California and Michigan. The company had also, prior to the crash, been in talks with Uber to collaborate on autonomous driving plans. There has been speculation that this would involve Toyota buying up Uber’s self-driving software, although details have been thin on the ground.
Although it appears, at this early stage, the pedestrian was at fault in the Uber accident, it’s not impossible the car’s backup driver could face legal action.
“I won’t rule out the potential to file charges against the (backup driver) in the Uber vehicle,” Moir said.
Should the driverless vehicle be found to be at fault, it could have significant implications for the industry. Along with Uber and Alphabet-owned Waymo, car manufacturers including Tesla, Ford and BMW have all revealed plans to invest heavily in the technology.