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Distraction blamed for self-driving Uber crash

The future of self-driving vehicles partially stalled after a report from the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) report of a deadly 2018 Arizona collision of an Uber vehicle and a pedestrian. The NTSB’s report criticized the lack of federal and state regulation of autonomous vehicles in its investigation of this car accident.

In March 2018, a self-driving Uber Volvo SUV hit a 49-year-old pedestrian on a dark street in Tempe and killed her. The NTSB said that Uber did not continue to monitor its operations and turned off the Volvo’s automatic braking system. Because the vehicle’s system could not bake automatically, a human backup driver had to do the braking.

This was the first traffic fatality that involved an autonomous test vehicle. The Board found that the backup driver did not monitor the road because she was watching a television show on her mobile phone. Uber’s inadequate safety procedures and the driver’s impairment from methamphetamines and crossing the road away from the intersection were also contributing causes, according to the NTSB.

The pedestrian was detected by the Uber system 5.6 seconds before the collision, but it did not determine whether the pedestrian was a bicyclist, pedestrian or unknown object. The system was not equipped to detect jaywalking pedestrians. Even though the vehicle was equipped with monitoring cameras, according to the NTSB, Uber did not conduct random checks to assure that their drivers were paying attention.

The NTSB also criticized the absence of federal and state guidelines, including the lack of regulation in Arizona. It said that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the federal safety agency, for failure to take the lead in regulating testing on public roads and that it emphasized technology advancement over saving lives.

The NHTSA issued voluntary guidelines which included safety assessment reports from autonomous vehicle companies. But, the NTSB said that only 16 companies filed these reports while there are 62 companies with testing permits in California. The NTSB also criticized this self-regulation for its lack of requirements, evaluations and standards.

Auto accident victims may be entitled to compensation for harm caused by a distracted, reckless or negligent driver. An attorney can help assure that they can obtain evidence and pursue this legal right.

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