The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has outlined the events leading up to the fatal collision between an autonomous Uber vehicle and a pedestrian on 18 March.
The board states in its preliminary report, which does not give a probable cause of the incident, that the pedestrian was “dressed in dark clothing, did not look in the direction of the vehicle until just before impact and crossed the road in a section not directly illuminated by lighting”, as well as “the pedestrian was pushing a bicycle that did not have side reflectors, and the front and rear reflectors, along with the forward headlamp, were perpendicular to the path of the oncoming vehicle.”
Tests on the pedestrian determined a positive result for methamphetamine and cannabis, and she crossed in an area where signage warned to use a designated crossing 360 feet away from the crash site.
The Volvo XC90 test vehicle that struck the pedestrian was equipped with Uber’s autonomous driving systems, which disable the car’s factory-fit automatic emergency braking function when the car is in computer control mode in order to diminish erratic behaviour while the systems were under test.
The pedestrian was detected by Uber’s systems six seconds before impact, and the car determined that emergency braking was required 1.3sec before impact. No faults or diagnostic messages were present at the time of the crash.
“The vehicle operator is relied on to intervene and take action. The system is not designed to alert the operator,” says the NTSB.
The operator used the steering wheel less than one second before impact and braked less than one second post-impact. She disclosed to NTSB that she was monitoring the self-driving interface.