Uber’s self-driving vehicle which struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona earlier this year had detected the woman prior to the crash, but the car’s emergency braking system had been disabled.

In March, the modified 2017 Volvo XC90, which was operating in autonomous mode with a driver behind the wheel, hit Elaine Herzberg when she pushing a bike across a road in Tempe, Arizona.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its initial report into the accident overnight, noting the car’s system initially classified the pedestrian as an unknown object, then as a vehicle and then as a bicycle.

At 1.3 seconds before impact, the self-driving system determined that emergency braking was needed to mitigate a collision.

“According to Uber, emergency braking maneuvers are not enabled while the vehicle is under computer control to reduce the potential for erratic vehicle behaviour. The vehicle operator is relied on to intervene and take action. The system is not designed to alert the operator,” the report states.

In the report the NTSB said the self-driving system data showed the vehicle operator engaged the steering wheel less than a second before impact and began braking less than a second after impact.

NTSB preliminary report
Source: NTSB preliminary report. View of the self-driving system data playback at about 1.3 seconds before impact, when the system determined an emergency braking maneuver would be needed to mitigate a collision. Yellow bands are shown in metersahead. Orange lines show the center of mapped travel lanes. The purple shaded areashows the path the vehicle traveled, with the green line showing the center of that path.

The data showed the self-driving system was operating normally at the time of the crash, there was no faults or diagnostic errors.

The report also notes the pedestrian did not look in the direction of the vehicle until just before impact and post-accident toxicology test results were positive for methamphetamine and marijuana.

In an interview with the NTSB, the driver said she had been monitoring the self-driving dashborad in the car and she was did not use her phone until after the accident to call 911.

After the accident Uber halted its testing program and has since shut-down its self-driving program in Arizona. Arizona’s governor has suspended Uber’s testing permit in March.

This week Uber announced it is conducting a safety review of its self-driving vehicles program and has appointed former NTSB chairman Christopher Hart to advice the company.

The NTSB investigation is ongoing.

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