First fatal accident with self-driving car software error was cause of accident
Police say fatal accident with self-driving uber vehicle could have been avoided – software was faulty. In addition, the safety driver was watching television on her smartphone during the accident. uber has no criminal consequences to fear.
The cause of the fatal uber accident in 2018 has now been officially clarified: the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) concludes in its final report that faulty software was the cause. At the time, pedestrian elaine herzberg was pushing her bicycle across a multi-lane street. A volvo XC90 equipped for autonomous driving by ride service provider uber ran over herzberg, who succumbed to her injuries at the scene – the software had failed to recognize the pedestrian.
Police stressed that the accident was "completely avoidable" because a female safety driver was behind the wheel of the XC90. However, she was watching television on her cell phone during the accident. With this, the authorities confirm the suspicions that emerged shortly after the first fatal accident with a fully autonomous vehicle.
No criminal consequences
Uber faces no criminal charges over fatal crash – U.S. attorneys found no basis on which to prosecute the ride-hailing company. However, the investigation into the safety driver who was distracted by her smartphone is ongoing.
The NTSB additionally announced that there have been a total of 37 accidents involving autonomous uber-vehicles between september 2016 and march 2018. 33 of these accidents involved another car.
All about the first fatal accident involving a fully autonomous vehicle
Analysis of data from the video portal hulu revealed that vasquez watched the broadcast for 42 minutes – at the time of the accident at 9:59 p.m., the transmission stopped. In addition, the police evaluated the interior video of the volvo XC90 recorded by uber. This revealed that the driver looked at her cell phone for a total of seven minutes during the last 22 minutes of streaming. according to the video recording, vasquez only lifts her eyes to the road again half a second before the accident – far too close to react. Now rafaela vasquez faces involuntary manslaughter charges.
British media reports 44-year-old rafaela vasquez has criminal record for armed robbery attempt. in 2001, she and a co-worker robbed the blockbuster video store where she was employed with a pistol to steal the day’s takings. For this, she was sentenced to five years imprisonment, four of which she had to serve. In court records, rafaela vasquez is still listed under her first name at the time, "rafael".
Software likely detected only an "insignificant obstacle"
According to U.S. news site the information, the uber-volvo’s software may have failed. Although the sensors detected a pedestrian pushing a bicycle, the software erroneously classified the detection as an insignificant obstacle. Such obstacles, known as false positives, include plastic bags blowing across the street. When the robotic car’s computing system assumes it has a false positive in front of it, it continues at undiminished speed.
According to uber insiders, the software had been modified shortly before the accident to prevent uber volvos from braking too violently. Finally, uber was already planning to offer autonomous driving services in the greater phoenix area by the end of 2018. The city of tempe, where the accident occurred, is located southwest of phoenix and merges seamlessly with arizona’s capital, making it part of the aforementioned metropolitan area. According to "the information," an uber executive who wishes to remain anonymous has expressed that the software modification may have turned out too violent.
Uber plans to test again soon
Uber expresses its deep regret over the accident and emphasizes that programmers have since thoroughly revised the software. As an advisor for improvements, uber had appointed NTSB chief christopher A. Able to win hard. The independent traffic authority NTSB (national transportation safety board) is in charge of the investigation into the uber accident.
First report of the accident
In a news video of a local TV station was on 20.3. 2018 a volvo XC90 with a dented front end and damaged hood seen at the scene of the accident. Next to her, a bicycle with a bent front wheel was lying on the sidewalk. According to reuters, a police officer said 49-year-old elaine herzberg was attempting to cross mill ave from left to right at approximately 10:00 p.m., at a location without a crosswalk. Woman succumbed to her injuries at hospital. The uber-volvo did not brake or take evasive action. While initial reports of the accident stated that the car was traveling at 40 miles per hour (64 km/h) instead of the permitted 35 miles per hour (56 km/h), the new york times reported on 24. March that 45 miles per hour (72 km/h) was allowed at the site. Thus, the autonomous vehicle would have been eight km/h slower than allowed.
The tempe police department had on 21. March released video of the accident. The camera systems of the autonomous XC90 filmed both the area in front of the vehicle and the driver herself. The pedestrian can be seen suddenly appearing in the cone of light in the middle of the lane and the car driving on without reacting to the traffic situation. In a first statement of the police it was said that herzberg had stepped sideways out of the dark onto the roadway, which is why an accident would have been difficult to avoid – in the meantime the police report that this quote was taken out of context. Video stops just before impact. The interior camera shows the safety driver looking down more often than constantly at the road ahead.
The video raises questions about why the autonomous uber vehicle did not initiate emergency braking. The radar and lidar systems (lidar: light detection and ranging, distance measurement by laser) with which the car is equipped work independently of daylight and could possibly have detected the pedestrian and her bicycle and initiated an emergency stop. Finally, the systems work at a 360-degree angle around the vehicle and can thus also dedect movements perpendicular to the direction of travel of the autonomous vehicle (see image below). According to the video, it takes about two seconds from the time the pedestrian appears in the cone of light until the accident occurs. Specialists from the U.S. National transportation safety board (NTSB), the national highway traffic safety administration, and the tempe police department of vehicle-related crimes are currently evaluating the video.
The camera images do not allow any conclusions to be drawn about what the driver was able to see, as cameras have so far been technically incapable of mimicking a person’s vision in the dark on a one-to-one basis. The camera used by uber seems to have a comparatively low dynamic range – i.e. it has problems in mapping brightness differences. Youtube user brian kaufman drove down mill ave in tempe at night and filmed his drive with a better camera. kaufman uses it to prove how bad the uber camera was. On his video (below), the surrounding area is much more visible – the accident site is reached at 34 seconds.
Uber pays to damages to family of accident victim
Uber expressed its dismay in a tweet and condoled with the woman’s relatives. The ride-hailing company assured authorities of its full cooperation. uber fleet of autonomous vehicles still not deployed. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) sent an investigation team to the scene of the accident and contacted volvo, a carmaker owned by the chinese geely group.
On 29. On March 3, uber reached an agreement with the family of the pedestrian involved in the accident to pay damages of an unknown amount. Cristina perez hesano, attorney for the herzberg family, stated that the husband and daughter of elaine herzberg will not comment on the settlement. uber itself also declined to comment on the case. By settling quickly with the herzberg family, uber avoided a potentially lengthy damages trial in court.
Arizona revoked uber license, california did not renew approvals, nvidia, toyota and boston halted testing
Meanwhile, the governor of arizona had halted uber testing entirely and revoked the ride-hailing service provider’s license over safety concerns. The move was a turnaround in autonomous vehicle testing in the U.S. state, which is popular for testing autonomous driving cars because of its straight roads and good weather. arizona’s government had always stressed that it did not want to regulate tests with robotic vehicles. Republican governor doug ducey had offered uber test sites shortly before, with no other stipulations. He also allowed vehicles to be put on the road without control personnel. After the accident, ducey wrote to new uber chief executive dara khosrowshahi that he found the accident video "disturbing and concerning" and that the film raised many questions.
Also, the california department of motor vehicles (california DMV) extended the on 31. March 2018 expired test license for autonomous driving uber vehicles failed. In california, uber faces accusations from cyclists, among others, that its autonomous volvos perform unsafe turning maneuvers. If uber wants to continue testing robotic vehicles in the southwestern U.S. state, the ride-hailing company would have to apply for a new license, making reference to the fatal accident in arizona, the california DMV said.
nvidia, a chipmaker based in santa clara, california, also halted all its testing of robotic cars on public roads in the wake of the accident. Nvidia test vehicles were on the road in the USA, Japan and Germany, among other countries. The chip manufacturer is one of the leading developers of hardware and software for artificial intelligence, which is considered by some experts to be an essential prerequisite for autonomous driving. nvidia chief jensen huang says his company’s technology was not installed in the volvo that was involved in the accident. After the announcement of the test halt, nvidia’s stock temporarily plunged more than eight percent on the stock exchange.
Toyota announced in the U.S. that it would pause tests with autonomous vehicles on public roads. japanese assume their test drivers are emotionally affected by fatal uber accident.
Boston, capital of the U.S. state of Massachusetts, had halted all autonomous vehicle tests by nutonomy (software provider for robotic cars) and optimus ride (provider of autonomous slow-moving light electric vehicles).
Previous accidents and traffic violations with uber cars
The accident was a major setback for efforts by uber and other companies to bring autonomous driving cars to production readiness. As early as 16. March 2018 google parent alphabet, waymo and uber failed with an initiative in the u.s. congress for legislation that would greatly simplify the testing and operation of self-driving cars on public roads.
Uber’s attempts with self-driving cars were not under a good star from the beginning: on 14. december 2016 an uber volvo ran a red light in san francisco. uber did not have permission to test drive there. The city then cancelled the operating permit of all autonomous uber cars. As a result, uber moved its test fleet to arizona. In March 2017, another uber XC90 was seriously injured in tempe, where the fatal accident occurred, after another road user failed to yield the right of way to it. The volvo was on its side after the accident. In the meantime, however, uber has also applied for and received a test license in its hometown of san francisco.
Problems probably known for some time
According to the new york times, uber had been having problems with its autonomous test fleet in arizona for some time. Analysis of more than 100 pages of internal documents and the testimony of two uber employees, who wish to remain anonymous, reveal that the test vehicles had particular difficulty in areas with construction sites and next to semi-trucks. In addition, uber drivers appear to have had to manually intervene in autonomous mode far more often than safety drivers at rival companies exploring autonomous driving. For example, the former google subsidiary waymo reported that in its 2017 test drives, after an average of 5.600 miles (9.012 kilometers) required driver intervention, while uber struggled to make 13 miles (21 kilometers) without intervention in march.
also, uber apparently felt pressured: uber chief executive dara khosrowshahi wanted to travel to arizona in april. According to internal documents, his development bosses wanted to present him with a flawless autonomous drive there. The project was called "milestone 1: trust" – and has now been canceled. according to the new york times, the accident is a major setback for uber’s attempt to revamp its corporate image following the departure of uber ceo travis kalanick, who resigned in june 2017.
As early as february 2018, uber reached an out-of-court settlement with its competitor waymo in the amount of 245 million dollars, currently the equivalent of approximately 197 million euros (order u.s. federal district court san francisco, case number 3:2017cv00939). Waymo had sued uber in february 2017 for theft of trade secrets, patent infringement, and unfair competition. Finally, in the summer of 2016, uber bought otto, a company specializing in autonomous trucks, for 680 million dollars (approximately 548 million euros). One of the two otto founders is former google engineer anthony levandowski, who worked at waymo before it was acquired by uber and is said to have come into possession of valuable data as a result. The court agreement is confidential, according to waymo – as of now, the two companies each want to develop their own technology. Both companies bear their own process costs.
Back in september 2016, the self-driving uber car made headlines. At the time, the guardian reported on a police officer who tried to use an autonomously driving uber car. He had signed a document in which uber states that the technology is still in development and that riding in an autonomous car could lead to serious injury, death and loss of property.
In august 2016, ex-uber CEO travis kalanick told bloomberg businessweek that no software existed that could drive as safely as a human. In the autonomous uber cars, there is always a driver at the wheel.
At the time, uber was testing autonomous driving in downtown pittsburgh, pennsylvania, with a fleet of autonomously driving ford fusion. The ride in the test cars was free of charge. Uber wanted to use it to test the reactions of passengers. The test took place in a 31-square-mile area of downtown Pittsburgh that is mapped to the nearest centimeter.
Uber and volvo have been cooperating since 2016
In august 2016, volvo and uber announced the collaboration, in which both companies invested 300 million uS dollars. Both companies want to jointly develop autonomous driving cars. The technology for the autonomous uber-volvo comes from the swedish automaker’s scalable product architecture, on which the XC90 and S90 are also based. Both companies want to use it to develop and research technologies for autonomous driving. From 2021, volvo plans to offer the first autonomous driving car.
Fatal accident with tesla was not with autonomous driving car
In may 2016, the "driver" of a tesla model S who had relied on the assistance system of his electric car, effusively christened "auto-pilot" by tesla, had been killed in an accident in florida. In its investigation report a year later, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) blamed the driver for speeding and not having his hands on the wheel. The autopilot had warned him several times.