Deadly Self-Driving Uber Pedestrain Crash Result of Faulty Software
Last month, we discussed the deadly glitches in pedestrian detection systems discovered in an AAA study. The technology was found to be defective when it was needed most, such as during nighttime hours, when a car made a right turn, and when a child unexpectedly darted out from between two parked cars.
Now, a recent report by the National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB) finds that software glitches were responsible for the self-driving Uber crash that took the life of an Arizona pedestrian in 2018. This incident, as well as recent research, makes us wonder if we can trust autonomous and semi-autonomous technology.
What exactly happened during the last six seconds before the Uber crash?
According to the NTSB, the car's semi-autonomous technology didn't include critical software and programming that could have saved the pedestrian's life. In addition, the pedestrian was identified six seconds before being struck while crossing the street. At approximately 1.2 seconds before the crash, the car became confused by the pedestrian's movements and failed to brake.
At .2 seconds prior to the crash, an alarm was sounded, but the operator had no time to stop the car. The pedestrian was reportedly struck at 45 mph. Uber had also disabled the emergency braking system, which would have prevented the crash. The company said that the car wasn't ready for self-driving and still required the control of a human operator — plus Uber wanted to prevent stop-and-go driving. The operator was distracted by her cellphone at the time of the crash.
The late response was due to faulty sensors, which detected the pedestrian but failed to classify her as a pedestrian. The 45 mph speed limit on the road where the crash occurred was also cited as a factor.
Why is reliance on technology dangerous?
Since the deadly 2018 Uber crash, the company has been seeking ways to make its self-driving cars safer — including making improvements to the sensors and enabling emergency brakes. Additionally, each self-driving Uber will have two operators instead of one, and operators will receive adequate training.
Currently, new cars entering the market come standard with semi-autonomous technology or advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). These include forward collision prevention, emergency braking, steering correction, and blind-spot detection. How much can we truly rely on this technology to work 100 percent of the time?
Reliance is dangerous. Drivers who are confident in ADAS or other autonomous technology may be more likely to take their attention away from the task of driving, just as the self-driving Uber operator did moments before striking the pedestrian. It will take years to develop and fully roll out this technology.
Even after years of development, no technology is foolproof. In fact, autonomous and semi-autonomous technology should only provide some assistance to the task of driving, not replace it.
Should you or a loved one be injured in a crash because another driver failed to take control of his or her vehicle, an experienced West Palm Beach car accident attorney can help you explore your legal options. To find out how you can take legal action, contact David J. Glatthorn, P.A. and schedule your free case review.