United States safety body outlines events of accident involving Uber autonomous test vehicle

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The vehicle, a modified 2017 Volvo XC90, also came with Volvo's collision avoidance system that includes automatic emergency braking, according to the NTSB.

It said Uber's system "is not created to alert the operator", who is expected "to intervene and take action" in an emergency.

According to the report, the Uber sensors determined that 1.3 seconds before the crash that an emergency maneuver would be necessary.

The vehicle detected the woman walking in front of it as quickly as 6 seconds prior to the crash.

According to data obtained from the self-driving system, the system first registered radar and LIDAR observations of the pedestrian about 6 seconds before impact, when the vehicle was traveling at 43 miles per hour. The system does not alert the operator when it believes emergency braking is required.


"According to Uber, emergency braking maneuvers are not enabled while the the vehicle is under computer control to reduce the potential for erratic vehicle behavior", the NTSB said. "The goal of the vehicle operator is to closely monitor and intervene [when needed], and that absolutely includes the emergency system". "The system is not created to alert the operator" when it thinks immediate braking is needed, which seems a rather large oversight to us.

Uber made the controversial choice of pursuing its own autonomous driving software in recent years, using only the hardware from chipmaker Nvidia, while eschewing the company's robust Nvidia Drive software (which is arguably one of the most advanced AV platforms out there) in favor of a homebrew solution.

Uber still plans to build and test self-driving cars, which the San Francisco company considers to be critical to maintaining its early lead in the ride-hailing market.

When Uber's vehicles exit autonomous mode, which happens when the driver brakes, steers, or hits a special button, an audible alert sounds in the auto and a message will appear on the diagnostic readout on the dash. No such action was taken, however, as the system is now disabled "to reduce the potential for erratic vehicle behavior", the NTSB said.

The NTSB said that all other aspects of the SUV's self-driving system were running normally at the time, and there were no faults or diagnostic trouble messages. The report also notes that she "was dressed in dark clothing and that the bicycle did not have any side reflectors", and that she crossed in a dark section of roadway. The company has brought on former NTSB Chair Christopher Hart to advise it on safety.


Uber pulled its tests of self-driving vehicles in Arizona on Wednesday.

Investigators added the woman crossed in a section of road that isn't illuminated by street lights, was wearing dark clothing at the time, and her bicycle had no reflectors that were visible to the vehicle. That irked Pittsburgh's mayor who said the company needed to make serious changes to its autonomous program before it could get back on the road.

The Tempe Police Department completed its investigation of the crash and referred it to Maricopa County prosecutors for review, police said in a statement issued Wednesday.

NTSB investigators have confirmed that Uber's self-driving software is to blame in the death of a pedestrian in March.

Most of those being laid off are safety drivers, among them Rafaela Vasquez, who was behind the wheel in March when the autonomous 2017 Volvo struck Elaine Herzberg, 49, as she pushed a bicycle across a Tempe thoroughfare. Still, she was visible in various video images recorded by the car's cameras, according to NTSB. "Toxicology test results for the pedestrian were positive for methamphetamine and marijuana", they added. She said she was looking at elements of Uber's self-driving system and not a cellphone, which she said she did not use until she called 911.


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