Elaine Herzberg, 49 (pictured), was killed after she was struck by an Uber vehicle in Arizona in the first pedestrian death via a self-autonomous car
Uber’s automated car which struck and killed a woman at 40mph did not show significant signs of slowing down, a spokesman for police has now confirmed.
The firm has suspended all its self-driving tests after what is believed to be the first fatal pedestrian crash involving its vehicles.
Automated driving had been taking place in Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto.
Police in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe say one of Uber’s self-driving vehicles struck and killed a pedestrian on Sunday night.
According to police, Herzberg was hit by an SUV (pictured) around 10pm on Sunday in Tempe when she was walking her bicycle outside of a crosswalk
Investigators said the Volvo SUV was in autonomous mode when the woman, 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, was hit.
She later died in hospital.
Police in Tempe say the victim was pushing a bicycle across the street, and ‘may have been homeless’.
There was a safety driver behind the wheel of the vehicle, identified as Rafael Vasquez, 44. There is no sign that the driver was impaired, the force says.
Sergeant Ronald Elcock said in a press conference: ‘The safety of our citizens here in Tempe is of the utmost importance.
‘None of us ever want to go through this ever again, using the crosswalks will definitely limit this from happening again.’
In a statement, an Uber spokesperson said the company is aware of the incident and is ‘fully cooperating with local authorities in their investigation’.
Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi expressed condolences on his Twitter account and said the company is working with local police on the investigation.
The accident in suburban Phoenix could have far-reaching consequences for the development of self-driving vehicles, which have been billed as potentially safer than cars with humans at the wheel.
Uber’s automated car which struck and killed a woman at 40mph did not show significant signs of slowing down, a spokesman for police has now confirmed. Cars go by the scene
The firm has suspended all its self-driving tests after what is believed to be the first fatal pedestrian crash involving its vehicles. Automated driving had been taking place in Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto. Pilot models of the self-driving car developed by Uber
The testing has been going on for months as car makers and technology companies compete to be the first with cars that operate on their own.
The crash could be a setback for autonomous vehicle research and may lead to stricter regulations from states and the federal government, said Bryant Walker Smith, a University of South Carolina professor who studies the technology.
But he said more than 100 people die each day on US roads in crashes of human-driven vehicles.
‘That’s a real contrast that we should keep in mind about this,’ he said. ‘We should be concerned about automated driving. We should be terrified about human driving.’
The federal government has voluntary guidelines for companies that want to test autonomous vehicles, leaving much of the regulation up to states.
Many states, including Michigan and Arizona, have taken a largely hands-off approach, hoping to gain jobs from the new technology, while California and other states have taken a harder line.
California is among those that require manufacturers to report any incidents to the motor vehicle department during the testing phase. As of early March, the agency had received 59 reports.
The Department of Transportation is considering other voluntary guidelines it says will help foster innovation.
Transportation secretary Elaine Chao has said technology and motor companies need to allay public fears of self-driving vehicles, citing a poll showing that 78 per cent fear riding in them.
The number of states considering legislation related to autonomous vehicles has gradually increased each year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
In 2017 alone, 33 states introduced legislation.
The crash in Arizona is not the first involving an Uber autonomous test vehicle. In March last year, an Uber SUV flipped on to its side, also in Tempe.
No serious injuries were reported, and the driver of the other car was cited for a violation.
Ms Herzberg’s death is the first involving an autonomous test vehicle but not the first in a car with automated control features.
The driver of a Tesla Model S was killed in 2016 when his car, operating on its Autopilot system, crashed into a lorry in Florida.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said driver inattention was to blame, not the vehicle’s autopilot system.
The agency said car makers should have safeguards that keep drivers engaged
HOW DO SELF-DRIVING CARS ‘SEE’?
Self-driving cars often use a combination of normal two-dimensional cameras and depth-sensing ‘LiDAR’ units to recognise the world around them.
In LiDAR (light detection and ranging) scanning – which is used by Waymo – one or more lasers send out short pulses, which bounce back when they hit an obstacle.
These sensors constantly scan the surrounding areas looking for information, acting as the ‘eyes’ of the car.
While the units supply depth information, their low resolution makes it hard to detect small, faraway objects without help from a normal camera linked to it in real time.
In November last year Apple revealed details of its driverless car system that uses lasers to detect pedestrians and cyclists from a distance.
The Apple researchers said they were able to get ‘highly encouraging results’ in spotting pedestrians and cyclists with just LiDAR data.
They also wrote they were able to beat other approaches for detecting three-dimensional objects that use only LiDAR.
Other self-driving cars generally rely on a combination of cameras, sensors and lasers.
An example is Volvo’s self driving cars that rely on around 28 cameras, sensors and lasers.
A network of computers process information, which together with GPS, generates a real-time map of moving and stationary objects in the environment.
Twelve ultrasonic sensors around the car are used to identify objects close to the vehicle and support autonomous drive at low speeds.
A wave radar and camera placed on the windscreen reads traffic signs and the road’s curvature and can detect objects on the road such as other road users.
Four radars behind the front and rear bumpers also locate objects.
Two long-range radars on the bumper are used to detect fast-moving vehicles approaching from far behind, which is useful on motorways.
Four cameras – two on the wing mirrors, one on the grille and one on the rear bumper – monitor objects in close proximity to the vehicle and lane markings.