An Uber test driver was operating one of the company’s self-driving cars when it struck and killed a pedestrian in 2018. The driver pleaded guilty to endangering public safety and was sentenced on Friday. The company was given a three-year probationary term under supervision.
A self-driving car tragically struck and killed 49-year-old Ellen Herzberg in Tempe, Arizona, in March 2018. Rafaela Vasquez was reportedly watching television on her smartphone at the time. The incident was investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board. The first known fatality involving a fully automated car occurred when Herzberg died.
Rafaela Vasquez, 49, was given three years of supervised probation for the collision that claimed the life of 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg. When Herzberg and Vasquez collided on a dark Tempe roadway on March 18, 2018, Vasquez told police that Herzberg “came out of nowhere” and that she hadn’t seen Herzberg beforehand.
It was said that Vasquez was gazing away from the road for more than a third of the journey. The National Transportation Safety Board’s 2019 investigation decided that an insufficient safety culture at Uber contributed to the collision. The crash was “avoidable” if the safety driver had been aware.
The inquiry found that the company’s self-driving software was not intended to anticipate that pedestrians outside of crosswalks may be crossing the roadway.
“The defendant in this matter was responsible for the operation of a vehicle on our city streets that ended with a woman being killed,” Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell said in the court’s news release.
“Getting behind the wheel of a car is a serious responsibility. Regardless of whatever technology might be available to drivers, safety for everyone on the street and in the vehicle must always be a driver’s priority,” Mitchell went on.
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It wasn’t the first time an autonomous test vehicle for Uber crashed. When it collided with another car in Tempe in March 2017, an Uber SUV rolled onto its side. The second car’s driver received a citation for a violation, but no significant injuries were indicated.
Herzberg’s passing was the first in a self-driving car. Allegedly, it wasn’t the first vehicle with partial self-driving capabilities. A Tesla Model S driver was killed in 2016 after his vehicle collided with a semi-trailer in Florida while using Autopilot.