Uber Arizona fatality: NTSB says self-driving SUV’s automatic braking was disabled

By AutoFOXBusiness

Uber making safety a top concern

FBN's Gerri Willis on Uber safety concerns after one of the company's self-driving cars hit and killed a pedestrian.

The Uber self-driving test vehicle that struck and killed an Arizona pedestrian in March was operating with its automatic braking system disabled, according to federal investigators.

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A report published Thursday by the National Transportation Safety Board cited Uber in saying that emergency braking maneuvers are not enabled while a vehicle is under computer control to reduce the potential for erratic vehicle behavior.

Federal investigators say the pedestrian, a 49-year-old woman, was walking a bicycle across a road outside a crosswalk in Tempe, Arizona. Toxicology reports indicate that she had methamphetamine and marijuana in her bloodstream.

The Uber test vehicle, a 2017 Volvo XC90 SUV, was occupied by a vehicle operator, a 44-year-old woman. According to the report, at 1.3 seconds before impact, the self-driving system determined that an emergency braking maneuver was needed but the system isn’t designed to alert the driver.

The operator hit the brakes less than a second after impact, and the vehicle’s speed was 39 mph, according to the NTSB.

“Over the course of the last two months, we’ve worked closely with the NTSB," an Uber spokeswoman said in a statement e-mailed to FOX Business.  "As their investigation continues, we’ve initiated our own safety review of our self-driving vehicles program. ... we look forward to sharing more on the changes we’ll make in the coming weeks.”

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As FOX Business reported, Uber said Wednesday that it would stop testing its self-driving cars in Arizona. The company plans to focus on its San Francisco and Pittsburgh engineering hubs as it pursues driverless technology. The company has brought on former NTSB Chair Christopher Hart to advise it on safety.

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