The highly publicized self-driving Uber crash in Tempe, AZ that occurred in March 2018 has been under scrutiny and investigation for a year. According to reports, it has been announced that Yavapai County Attorney, Sheila Sullivan Polk, has found no criminal liability on Uber’s part.
Polk recommended a further investigation by her counterpart in Maricopa County, Bill Montgomery. However, Montgomery had initially turned down the investigation because of a conflict of interest: the accident occurred in Maricopa County.
Polk was also under the impression that another expert should assess what the autonomous car and safety driver should have been aware of given the car’s velocity, the lighting at the time, and other safety factors.
Uber’s Volvo XC90 was operating in its fully autonomous mode when it struck a 49-year-old pedestrian Elaine Herzberg. Ms. Herzberg was pushing her bike across the street when she was struck. The safety driver, Rafaela Vasquez, failed to react and take control of the vehicle. It has since been revealed she was watching an episode of television when the collision occurred.
Although Uber’s self-driving system had detected the woman six seconds before the crash, the car did not react. Allegedly, the car did not react because she was not walking in a crosswalk. This caused her to not recognized as a pedestrian or cyclist by the system. It has yet to be determined what role these factors or any others played in the accident.
The crash gained notoriety for being the first fatality as part of an autonomous vehicle incident. Despite Attorney Polk’s ruling, Ms. Herzberg’s daughter and husband are currently suing the city of Tempe for $10 million. Uber could also still face further criminal charges.
Uber finally restarted its efforts to provide a service involving self-driving cars, though pledging to work in more controlled environments. Meanwhile, rival companies have been attempting to expand their operations as well. Nonetheless, many are hopeful the laws and technology are put in place to prevent accidents like this again.