Police say that a video from the self-driving Uber car that struck and killed a pedestrian on March 18, 2018 shows that the pedestrian was walking a bike at about 10 p.m. outside of the crosswalk and stepped into traffic from a dark center median. The actions of the pedestrian are likely to be a focus for investigators as they assess the performance of the autonomous technology and its potential fault in the first pedestrian fatality in the United States involving a self-driving car.
“It’s very clear it would have been difficult to avoid this collision in any kind of mode based on how she came from the shadows right into the roadway,” Sylvia Moir, the police chief in Tempe, Arizona, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “The [human driver who was present in the vehicle and behind the wheel but not operating the car which was in autonomous mode] said it was like a flash, the person walked out in front of them,” Moir said. “His first alert to the collision was the sound of the collision.” Nonetheless, the lack of any evidence of braking or any effort to avoid the accident is concerning. “This tragic accident underscores why we need to be exceptionally cautious when testing and deploying autonomous vehicle technologies on public roads,” stated Democratic Senator Edward Markey, a member of the transportation committee.
This account of the fatal crash and the results of all pending investigations will be of significance in the self-driving vehicle industry as well as the legal liability landscape assessing liability for such crashes.
Multiple questions remain unanswered:
Did the self-driving system detect the presence of the pedestrian?
Did the self-driving system classify the victim as a pedestrian?
Was the self-driving system’s response too slow?
There has been no determination as to whether charges will be brought. There is also no determination as to fault for the accident.