When Uber safety drivers are distracted, the results can be deadly. While in test-mode, an Uber self-driving vehicle crashed into a pedestrian causing fatal injuries. The crash was caused by a distracted safety driver behind the wheel.
Uber Driver Causes Fatal Crash
In March 2018, the safety driver behind the wheel of a self-driving Uber vehicle caused a fatal accident. The vehicle was undergoing testing on a stretch of highway in Tempe, Arizona. Police reports show that the Uber safety driver was distracted by streaming a television show on her phone, and she wasn’t monitoring the vehicle during the test drive.
The crash killed a 49-year old woman who was crossing the street with her bicycle. The Uber self-driving test vehicle was traveling at 39 mph when it struck the woman. The fatal crash launched an investigation into the reasons for the accident. The Tempe Police Department recently released a 318-page report. It shows that the safety driver, Rafaela Vasquez, was streaming the television show, The Voice, on her phone at the time of the accident. Records show that Ms. Vasquez was watching the show for 42 minutes prior to the crash.
The Tempe Police Department released a video of the crash showing that the safety driver was looking down at the time of the crash, instead of monitoring the self-driving system interface mounted on the center console of the vehicle. Ms. Vasquez told police that she left her personal phone in her own vehicle and did not have it with her during the Uber test drive, but the Hulu streaming timeline shows otherwise.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the Uber test vehicle detected the victim first as a vehicle, then as a bicycle as she attempted to cross the road, but the car failed to brake. Before the test drive, Uber deactivated the vehicle’s automated emergency braking system and relied on the safety driver’s override ability. NTSB reports claim that the crash was completely avoidable if Ms. Vasquez had been properly monitoring the vehicle. Although no criminal charges have been filed, Ms. Vasquez could face vehicular manslaughter charges for the fatal car crash.
Since the crash, Uber’s self-driving technology has come under scrutiny by traffic safety officials. Testing for self-driving vehicles has stopped in some areas, and the future of Uber’s self-driving cars is facing safety hurdles that must be resolved.