In 2018, Uber’s self-driving test vehicle was involved in a fatal accident in Arizona, USA. A woman was hit and killed while crossing the road at night. Now that this case has a follow-up result, the driver of the self-driving test car on duty will be charged with manslaughter and may face jail in the future.
Prosecutor Allister Adel said in a written statement: “Distracted driving is a major problem in our community. When drivers sit in a car, they are responsible for observing the law and controlling and driving the car safely.”
On the evening of March 18, 2018, 46-year-old Vasquez drove a Volvo XC90 self-driving test car in Tempe, Maricopa County, and crashed into a 49-year-old pedestrian Elaine Herzberg who was crossing the road and died.
Although the driver Vasquez emphasized that he was indeed observing the road conditions at the time, the camera in the car caught the driver raising his head and found that he would soon hit a pedestrian.
The National Transportation Safety Board later released a preliminary investigation into the accident, and investigators found that Vasquez was not fully focused on the road conditions at the time, but was watching “Good American Voice” on his phone while the car was being controlled by self-driving test technology. In addition, the tragedy occurred because Uber disabled the emergency braking system for self-driving vehicles.
Uber’s argument is that the vehicle was then operated by an on-board computer, in order to reduce the likelihood of unpredictable behavior. A few weeks after the accident, Uber reached a civil settlement with the family of the woman who died.
In 2019, an Arizona prosecutor ruled that Uber was not criminally liable for the self-driving crash, but even so, Uber’s self-driving business has been hit hard by slow testing in several states.
Uber’s self-driving business is now far from being driven away by rivals, with Waymo achieving 10 million miles (16.09 million kilometers) of self-driving test mileage in 2019 after winning a fully driverless test license from the California Motor Vehicle Authority (DMV).