The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in the US held a hearing in Washington DC this week in which investigators presented the probable cause of an accident.
The accident took place in 2018 when an Uber vehicle driving autonomously hit Elaine Herzberg who was crossing the road.
The investigation has revealed that, while Uber was at fault in the incident, it should not bear the brunt alone.
“Safety starts at the top,” said NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt, “The collision was the last link of a long chain of actions and decisions made by an organization that unfortunately did not make safety the top priority.”
The report reveals that Uber’s automated driving system detected Herzberg 5.6 seconds before the impact but failed to identify Herzberg as a pedestrian.
Uber was also blamed for its lack of oversight with regards to vehicle operators. This was highlighted by the firm’s decision to remove a second operator from the vehicle during testing.
The operator on the night of the incident was also named as a probable cause of the incident. The report states that, had the operator been attentive, they would have had enough time to react to Herzberg crossing the road. Reports following the incident revealed that the driver was distracted and watching The Voice at the time of the incident.
Finally, the report adds that the state of Arizona was also at fault. The Arizona Department of Transportation’s insufficient oversight of automated testing was named as a probable cause.
The NTSB has recommended that transport authorities require firms develop and submit safety self-assessment plans before being allowed to start testing.
One thing that is for certain is the accident in 2018 has stymied the push toward autonomous vehicles that was ramping up at the time. While research is still happening in this area it’s happening with a lot more caution.