Feds: Uber self-driving SUV saw pedestrian; did not brake


DETROIT (AP) — The autonomous Uber SUV that struck and killed an Arizona pedestrian in March spotted the woman about six seconds before hitting her, but did not stop because the system used to automatically apply brakes in potentially dangerous situations had been disabled, according to federal investigators.

In a preliminary report on the crash, the National Transportation Safety Board said today emergency braking is not enabled while Uber's cars are under computer control, "to reduce the potential for erratic vehicle behavior."

Instead, Uber relies on a human backup driver to intervene. The system, however, is not designed to alert the driver.

In the crash, the driver began steering less than a second before impact but didn't brake until less than a second after impact, according to the preliminary report, which does not determine fault.

A video of the crash showed the driver looking down just before the vehicle struck and killed 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg in Tempe, Ariz.

Uber said in a company release it has worked closely with the NTSB and is doing an internal review of its self-driving vehicle program. The company also has brought in former NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart "to advise us on our overall safety culture, and we look forward to sharing more on the changes we'll make in the coming weeks."

The NTSB report comes a day after Uber pulled its self-driving cars out of Arizona, eliminating the jobs of about 300 people who served as backup drivers and performed other jobs connected to the vehicles. Uber had suspended testing of its self-driving vehicles in Arizona, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto while regulators investigated the cause of the March 18 crash.

Don't Miss a Story

Sign up for our newsletter to receive daily news directly in your inbox.