Auto Braking on Self-Driving Uber Car Shut Off Before Fatal Crash to Impress CEO
UNITED STATES – A report from businessinsider.com reveals that the automatic emergency braking system on the self-driving Uber vehicle that crashed into and killed a pedestrian in March had been shut off in part to impress the company’s CEO.*
In March 2018, a self-driving Uber vehicle struck and killed 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg while she was walking her bicycle across a Tempe, Arizona, road. Footage obtained from the Uber vehicle shows the human safety driver inside, 44-year-old Rafaela Vasquez, was looking down at the time and did not see Herzberg until it was too late.
An internal team reportedly reviewed Uber’s operations after the Arizona crash, and Uber installed 16 new features to improve safety in its autonomous vehicles. One such improvement is inclusion of emergency braking systems designed to prevent or mitigate accidents. In its investigation into the Arizona crash, the federal government found that the automatic braking system in the Uber vehicle involved in the March collision had been disabled. Original reports indicated this was to avoid erratic braking and ensure a smoother ride, and new information expands on that motivation.
Internal documents from Uber, coupled with employee interviews, suggest braking systems on Uber’s self-driving cars were disabled at least in part in an effort to impress CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who was scheduled to receive a ride in one of the company’s self-driving vehicles in April. Uber has not officially commented on this new information.
In another piece of odd news, reporters learned while speaking with employees that Uber uses the term “squishy thing” to refer to humans and animals that might be struck by a self-driving vehicle, as opposed to other types of objects.
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