Self-Driving Uber Hits And Kills Pedestrian In First-Of-Its-Kind Accident

Ken AshfordCourts/Law, Science & TechnologyLeave a Comment

I had my doubts about the technology. I didn’t think it is there yet, and this proves it.

Uber has halted testing of its autonomous vehicles across North America, the company announced, after a woman was struck and killed by one of its self-driving cars in Tempe, Ariz. early Monday.

The moratorium on testing includes San Francisco, Phoenix, Pittsburgh and Toronto, Uber said.

The National Transportation Safety Board has opened an investigation into the crash, said Eric Weiss, a spokesman for the NTSB.

Uber issued a short statement.

“Our hearts go out to the victim’s family. We are fully cooperating with local authorities in their investigation of this incident,” a company spokeswoman said.

It is believed to be the first fatality in any testing program involving autonomous vehicles.

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in a tweet that the company was working to learn what went wrong.

Well, some reports are already specifying “what went wrong”:

The 49 year-old woman, Elaine Herzberg, was crossing the road outside of a crosswalk when the Uber vehicle operating in autonomous mode under the supervision of a human safety driver, struck her, according to the Tempe Police Department. She was transferred to a local hospital where she died from her injuries. “Uber is assisting and this is still an active investigation,” Liliana Duran, a Tempe police spokeswoman, said in an emailed statement.

Did you catch that? She crossing the road “outside of a crosswalk”. Now, I’m saying that tongue-in-cheek that her jaywalking was “what went wrong”, but I have a feeling a lot of tech geeks actually will blame HER for that.

I have a degree in human factors (engineering design), and rule number one is that you design the thing to comply with NORMAL human behavior. You can’t expect the public to walk between the lines of a crosswalk just because you have designed your machine to work that way.  If you know — or SHOULD KNOW — how humans behave, you are liable. Whoever designed this thing, is liable. Period.