Newly released video footage shows the moment that a self-driving Uber vehicle, operated by a convicted felon, hit and killed a pedestrian. The video has been called “damning for Uber” by a professor who researches robot-perception systems.
The Wall Street Journal reports that a recently released video shows the moment that a self-driving Uber vehicle hit and killed a pedestrian. Convicted felon Rafaela Vasquez, 44, was at the wheel of the car as it was in self-driving mode — a feature being tested by Uber in many cities across the U.S. and Canada. 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg was walking a bicycle outside the lines of a crosswalk when the self-driving vehicle operated by Vasquez hit Herzberg who later died in a hospital. Vasquez appears to take her eyes off the road for a considerable period of time before the accident in the video.
The video, published by ABC News, can be seen below:
An Uber spokesperson commented on the video in a statement saying “The video is disturbing and heartbreaking to watch, and our thoughts continue to be with Elaine’s loved ones.” They continued, “Our cars remain grounded, and we’re assisting local, state and federal authorities in any way we can.” No charges have been filed yet against the operator of the vehicle or Uber as Tempe police continue to investigate the situation.
The car was traveling at approximately 40 miles per hour when it hit Herzberg and it appears as if the cars onboard sensors failed to detect her entirely. Herzberg’s death is believed to be the first caused by an autonomous vehicle. Todd Humphreys, an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin who researches robot-perception systems said “This video is damning for Uber. This appears to have been a serious failure of the Uber perception system.” Humphreys said that if the laser sensors called the lidar failed to work “this accident calls into question Uber’s ability to correctly and promptly interpret its data.”
Missy Cummings, a professor of mechanical engineering and material science at Duke University, noted that Vasquez who was meant to be monitoring and operating the self-driving car was not paying attention to the road. “The driver was eyes down most of the time, indicating complacency and not maintaining proper monitoring,” said Cummings.