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Uber's Self-Driving Car Was Going 40mph, Didn't Slow

The latest on the crash that killed pedestrian Elaine Herzberg
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 20, 2018 5:21 AM CDT
Uber's Self-Driving Car Was Going 40mph, Didn't Slow
A vehicle goes by the scene of Sunday's fatality where a pedestrian was stuck by an Uber vehicle in autonomous mode, in Tempe, Ariz., Monday, March 19, 2018. A self-driving Uber SUV struck and killed the woman in suburban Phoenix in the first death involving a fully autonomous test vehicle.   (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

(Newser) – The death of a 49-year-old pedestrian in Tempe, Ariz., on Sunday night is being called the first time a person has been killed by a self-driving vehicle, and Wired provides some perspective: "Human drivers kill just 1.16 people for every 100 million miles driven. Waymo and Uber and all the rest combined are nowhere near covering that kind of distance, and they've already killed one." The Verge has more details on that death, which police say occurred when Uber's autonomous vehicle was going 40mph. Police say there are no indications the Volvo XC90 SUV significantly slowed before hitting Elaine Herzberg, a homeless woman who was pushing a bicycle across the street outside a crosswalk. More:

  • Police do not believe the safety driver behind the wheel, Rafaela Vasquez, 44, was impaired at the time of the crash, which occurred when the car was in autonomous mode. The Arizona Republic reports Vasquez served just shy of four years in Arizona state prison in the early 2000s for attempted armed robbery. The paper notes Uber was fined $8.9 million last year by Colorado after it was determined the company had almost 60 drivers with felony convictions on their record driving there in violation of state law. Herzberg also had a conviction on her record, for drug possession charges a few years back.

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  • Wired describes Sunday's weather as warm, light on wind, and with 20% humidity—nothing that should have mucked with the car's sensors, it observes. As for the video captured by the car, a rep for Tempe police who viewed the footage says "it will definitely assist in the investigation, without a doubt."
  • The Republic reports the portion of road where Herzberg was crossing has a large median and signs instructing people to refrain from crossing mid-block—though there's a brick path in the median there for people who do exactly that.
  • NPR looks at Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey's three-year push to woo self-driving car makers to his state, an effort that picked up steam in 2016 when Uber was forced to pull its cars from San Francisco until it secured the testing permits it needed. Arizona swept in as an alternative, and one that Wired points out requires no such permit and doesn't demand that specifics on the operations be shared with officials. The Republic reports Uber's Tempe self-driving workforce numbered about 300 as of November.
(Read more Uber stories.)

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