Prosecutors Don’t Plan to Charge Uber in Self-Driving Car’s Fatal Accident

Arizona prosecutors stated Tuesday that that they had not discovered proof to cost Uber with a criminal offense in reference to an accident in which one in all its autonomous automobiles hit and killed a pedestrian in Tempe a 12 months in the past.

On March 18, 2018, a Volvo sport utility automobile, one in all a number of self-driving autos that Uber was testing, was touring about 40 miles per hour when it hit Elaine Herzberg, 49, as she was strolling her bicycle throughout the road at evening, the authorities stated.

While the automotive was in autonomous mode, a security driver was sitting in the motive force’s seat.

The Yavapai County Attorney’s Office, which reviewed the case, stated in a letter dated Monday that there was “no basis for criminal liability for the Uber corporation.”

But it added that investigators ought to look into what the protection driver “would or should have seen that night given the vehicle’s speed, lighting conditions, and other relevant factors.”

“It’s not very well trod at all,” said Frank Douma, a research scholar at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Transportation Studies. “To my knowledge, there is not any sort of real bright-line statement about who’s liable when.”

Mr. Douma said prosecutors’ announcement Tuesday tracked with how typically people, and not car manufacturers, are held responsible for crimes they commit behind the wheel. But, as autonomous vehicles become more sophisticated, he said, such cases raise questions about that way of thinking.

“Is this driver, or was this driver, behaving in any way different than what most drivers are going to be behaving like when the car is doing this much driving?” he said. “It’s a very conventional way of thinking to say we can expect and we should expect people to sit and monitor technology that is otherwise doing all the decision-making.”

The Yavapai County Attorney’s Office did its review at the request of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, which had a potential conflict of interest in the case because of an earlier partnership with Uber in a safety campaign. The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

The New York Times reported last March that Uber’s autonomous cars in Arizona struggled to meet the company’s expectations and required drivers to intervene more frequently than those of the company’s competitors.

Uber suspended testing of self-driving vehicles after the crash. In December, the vehicles returned to public roads, though at reduced speeds and in less-challenging environments.

In a preliminary report about the crash released in May, the National Transportation Safety Board said the Uber car’s computer system had spotted Ms. Herzberg six seconds before impact, but classified Ms. Herzberg, who was not in a crosswalk, first as an unrecognized object, then as another vehicle and finally as a bicycle.

The Uber car, equipped with Uber’s sensing technology, comes with an automatic emergency braking system from the manufacturer.

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