The Tempe (Ariz.) Police Department has released dashcam video of the tragic fatal collision of an autonomous Uber car with a pedestrian Sunday night.
The crash killed 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg as she walked her bike across the highway. The video appears to show driver Rafael Vasquez, who was there to take over from the computer in case of an emergency, looking down just before impact.
Tempe police have stated that the car, a Volvo XC90 fitted with Uber's autonomous control equipment, was traveling 40 mph in a 45 mph speed zone.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported Tempe police chief Sylvia Moir saying that it might not have mattered whether Vasquez was more vigilant or not. “It’s very clear it would have been difficult to avoid this collision in any kind of mode (autonomous or human-driven) based on how she came from the shadows right into the roadway,” she told the paper.
“Our hearts go out to the victim’s family. We are fully cooperating with local authorities in their investigation of this incident,” Uber told Motherboard in a statement.
Uber has suspended its autonomous car testing program nationwide.
Longstanding critic Alex Roy, writing for The Drive, was among the many who slammed Uber for the system's failure to see Herzberg with either its laser or radar sensors.
"A slow moving pedestrian at night—well beyond human line of sight—is precisely what radar and Lidar sensors are supposed to see," he wrote. "This is precisely the type of crash self-driving cars are designed to prevent."
A Twitter survey by Phoenix Fox affiliate reporter Marc Martinez showed 52 percent of area residents who voted are now opposed to Uber's testing of autonomous cars on local roads.
The Uber-modified Volvo was equipped with cameras, Lidar (a laser scanning system) and radar, which should have identified Herzberg as she crossed the road. There are many questions yet to be answered as autonomous cars and those of us who have to live with them, endure growing pains.