Uber Autonomous Vehicle Kills Pedestrian

Uber Autonomous Vehicle Kills Pedestrian

In March of this year, an Uber autonomous vehicle – with a human backup driver behind the wheel – hit and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. The crash, involving a pedestrian crossing the road, was the first pedestrian death associated with self-driving technology.

The self-driving Uber SUV was part of a pilot program launched in February 2017. Tempe, Arizona was considered an ideal place to test autonomous vehicles because of its favorable weather and wide roads.

Pedestrian Crash Could Have Been Avoided

After months of investigation, a 300-page police report was released, revealing alarming news: the backup driver was watching the television show “The Voice” on her smartphone at the time of the crash. The report found that the crash would have been avoided had the backup driver been watching the road rather than her phone.

Dash camera video shows the driver looking down for four or five seconds before the crash occurred, and looking up a half-second before the crash while the self-driving vehicle was traveling just under 45 miles per hour. The report also found that the safety driver’s hands were not in proper position. Backup drivers are instructed to let their hands hover above the steering wheel in order to take control of the car in case of emergency. The police report found that if the driver had been paying attention to the road, she would have stopped the vehicle 42 feet before striking the pedestrian.

Safety Driver Was Not Following Autonomous Car Protocol

The investigation also notes that the dashboard camera captured the backup driver looking downward (presumably at her phone) 204 times in the nearly 12 miles driven before the crash. While acting as the backup driver, she turned her eyes away from the road nearly one-third of the time that the vehicle was in motion.

This tragic crash illustrates the dangers of not paying proper attention to the road (as either the driver of a vehicle or the backup driver of an autonomous vehicle) and the unreliability of nascent self-driving technology.

Uber Autonomous Vehicle Program on Pause

Because of the crash, Uber suspended its autonomous vehicle program in Arizona, as well as in Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Toronto, where it also had been testing autonomous vehicles.

Do You Have a Claim Against Rideshare Company Uber or Lyft?

If you have been involved in a crash in an Uber of Lyft vehicle where the driver was negligent or at fault, the attorneys at Dimond Kaplan & Rothstein, P.A. are here to help.

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