As nice as it would be to have a self-driving car to take you around, the reality continues to disappoint. After a woman was struck and killed in Arizona by an Uber autonomous vehicle, Uber began to re-examine the safety of the technology. What they found was shocking.
If you have been involved in an Uber accident, contact us today to discuss your case!
Basic Braking for Safety
Investigators into the Uber accident found that sensors on the SUV picked up the woman who was crossing outside of a crosswalk at night. It even sent a signal to the main computer to use emergency brakes to help avoid striking the woman. However, the car could not use emergency braking maneuvers when it was under the computer’s control.
You are probably just as baffled as we were when we read this, but it bears repeating. The car did not have an ability to brake in an emergency because that feature had been turned off. Why would something so basic as a car’s emergency brake be turned off? Apparently, investigators claim it was a way to prevent the vehicle from driving erratically.
NTSB investigators did not seem too troubled by the lack of an emergency braking system in an autonomous vehicle. This is mostly because a human driver was present. In theory, the car was supposed to alert the driver who would then press the brake and stop the car. But the alarm failed to sound, the driver was looking away at the time and the pedestrian had drugs in her system and didn’t look both ways before crossing the street.
A Fatal Design Flaw
One of the latest features to be included in high-end vehicles is the ability to detect when there is an object in the road and stop automatically to avoid a crash. The Volvo XC90 that was being used as the test vehicle for the autonomous driving system was equipped with just that kind of system. Called “City Safety”, the vehicle was equipped with an automated braking system that should have served as a third backup for the autonomous vehicle system and the distracted driver. However, even this technology was disabled when the SUV was in the self-driving mode.
As tragic as the accident was, the fact remains that there are basic design flaws in the technology. The system relied on the driver being aware of the road as though they were driving, but whether the driver was informed of that fact is unknown. Whether Uber knew about the flaws in the car’s design remains to be seen. Legal liability and ethical responsibility continue to entangle one another as more details come out regarding this tragedy. Meanwhile, the future of autonomous vehicles hangs in the balance. Uber has already suspended their autonomous vehicle program while other companies that have been working toward this same goal have followed suit.
If you have been involved in an Uber accident, contact the DC, Maryland, and Virginia Uber accident lawyers at The Elan Law Firm today for a free consultation to discuss your case.