Uber ruled 'not liable' for self-driving car death

  • A court has ruled that Uber is not liable for the death of 49 year old Elaine Herzberg, who was struck and killed by one of their self-driving cars under computer control in March 2018.

    The field of driverless and autonomous vehicles has been under intense scrutiny in recent years following several incidents of injury and death involving vehicles under computer control. Uber made the news last year when one of its autonomous vehicles being used as part of a test in the United States struck and killed 49 year old Elaine Herzberg, the first pedestrian death as a result of collision with a self-driving car.

    Police initially reporting to the scene said that the incident would have been avoidable, but footage from the car's cameras and data from its instruments made it not so clear. Elaine had crossed a four-lane road on a busy intersection in pitch black conditions without any lights or reflective gear on, and was pushing a heavy bicycle.

    Telemetry from the car showed that the human backup driver swerved the car less than a second before the collision and hit the brakes after the collision, and video showed that the driver was not paying attention to the road. Video showed that Elaine wasn't visible until moments before impact, so it wasn't clear that the driver could have avoided the collision under any circumstances.

    The question of whether Uber might be liable for Elaine's death remained unanswered, as records also showed that the computer system detected Elaine six seconds before impact using its sensors but failed to identify her and determine that emergency braking was needed until 1.3 seconds before impact.

    Prosecutors in the court case have now ruled that Uber is not liable for Elaine Herzberg's death, though they haven't disclosed how they reached that conclusion. The human driver is also still under investigation as video footage showing what the driver would have seen from inside the car is being re-examined and it's become known that the driver was watching a TV show on their phone at the time of the collision.

    Source: BBC News

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    Brendan is a Sync NI writer with a special interest in the gaming sector, programming, emerging technology, and physics. To connect with Brendan, feel free to send him an email or follow him on Twitter.

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