Self-Driving Uber Car’s Sensors Ignored Pedestrian in March Fatality Accident


May 11, 2018

TEMPE, AZ. – May 7, 2018 (gizmodo.com) An online story from gizmodo.com reports that Uber has concluded that the sensors on the self-driving car that struck and killed a pedestrian in March were not set correctly.*

On March 18, a self-driving Uber vehicle was traveling the streets of Tempe, Arizona, with a human safety driver inside. At approximately 10 p.m., the car struck and killed pedestrian Elaine Herzberg, 49, as she was walking her bicycle across the road. Footage from the dash camera inside the vehicle showed the safety driver looking down and not at the road prior to the collision. 

Since the accident, Uber has been investigating to understand why the vehicle did not stop on its own or try to avoid Herzberg. The company has reportedly concluded that the vehicle’s sensors were set incorrectly. While the cameras, Lidar, and radar of the vehicle were all working correctly, the sensors were set to ignore certain objects around the car. This sensor setting likely caused the vehicle to ignore Herzberg rather than brake when it sensed her in its path. 

The sensors might have been set this way to avoid unnecessary braking that can detract from the smoothness of a ride. Many self-driving cars have been prone to jerky driving and sudden brake-pumping, even when no objects were actually in the vehicles’ paths. Sudden braking like this can be dangerous. By tweaking the sensors, Uber vehicles could decide which sensed objects it could ignore. The Uber vehicle involved in the collision, therefore, looks to have ignored Herzberg. 

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is still investigating the accident, along with Uber, and will release a report at the end of the investigation.

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Category: Accident News

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