'Disturbing' Video of Uber Self-Driving Crash Is Released

Police chief says it would have been hard to avoid for either human or robot
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 22, 2018 3:30 AM CDT

The pedestrian, the human backup operator, and the vehicle were all taken by surprise in what is believed to be the first pedestrian death in an accident involving a self-driving car, video released by police in Arizona shows. The video shared by police in Tempe on Tuesday shows 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg walking her bike from a darkened area across a street outside a crosswalk, and cuts off right before impact, the Arizona Republic reports. The video also includes footage from inside the self-driving Volvo, where the backup operator can be seen looking down until the final moments before looking up, apparently shocked. The vehicle was going 40mph, and there's no sign that it slowed down.

The video "is disturbing and heartbreaking to watch, and our thoughts continue to be with Elaine's loved ones," says Uber spokesman Andrew Hasbun. "Our cars remain grounded, and we're assisting local, state, and federal authorities in any way we can." Uber suspended road testing of its self-driving car program in several cities after the accident, though Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir tells the San Francisco Chronicle that looking at how Herzberg "came from the shadows right into the roadway," it appears that the collision would have been hard to avoid in any mode, human-driven or autonomous. Local media identified the driver as 44-year-old Rafaela Vasquez, though police say the driver was named Rafael. Court records show a man with the same name and birthdate spent four years in prison on felony convictions before joining Uber, the AP reports. (More self-driving car stories.)

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