The police chief of Tempe, Arizona, where a woman was struck and killed by one of Uber’s self-driving cars Sunday, says the ride-sharing company is likely not at fault for the accident, following a preliminary investigation.
Chief of Police Sylvia Moir told the San Francisco Chronicle on Monday that video footage taken from cameras equipped to the autonomous Volvo SUV potentially shift the blame to the victim herself, 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, rather than the vehicle.
“It’s very clear it would have been difficult to avoid this collision in any kind of mode [autonomous or human-driven] based on how she came from the shadows right into the roadway,” Moir told the paper, adding that the incident occurred roughly 100 yards from a crosswalk. “It is dangerous to cross roadways in the evening hour when well-illuminated managed crosswalks are available,” she said.
Though the vehicle was operating in autonomous mode, a driver was present in the front seat. But Moir said there appears to be little he could have done to intervene before the crash.
“The driver said it was like a flash, the person walked out in front of them,” Moir said. “His first alert to the collision was the sound of the collision.”
According to the Chronicle, the preliminary investigation found the Uber car was driving at 38 mph in a 35 mph zone and did not attempt to brake. Herzberg is said to have abruptly walked from a center median into a lane with traffic. Police believe she may have been homeless.
Tempe police plan to work with investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to reach a conclusion about what happened, according to the Chronicle.
Sunday’s incident appears to be the first-ever self-driving car fatality involving a pedestrian.