A self-driving Uber SUV drives down a Tempe, Ariz., street at night as the human backup driver looks down at her lap, occasionally glancing out the windshield, a dashcam video shows.
Suddenly, a woman walking her bicycle across the street outside of a crosswalk appears in front of the SUV, which makes no visible attempt to brake. The backup driver looks up, and her eyes fly open in shock as the 21.8-second video ends just before the fatal collision.
The crash Sunday night in Tempe, involving a Volvo XC90 SUV operated by Uber, is believed to be the first death involving a fully autonomous test vehicle, according to The Arizona Republic. Elaine Herzberg, 49, of Mesa, died in the collision. Police identified Rafaela Vasquez, 44, as the backup driver.
The edited dashcam video of the crash was released Wednesday by Tempe police. It included views from exterior and interior cameras of the moments before the collision.
A review of the video and a preliminary investigation suggest the collision was probably unavoidable regardless of who was behind the wheel, Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir told The San Francisco Chronicle. Herzberg appears to walk directly from the shadows in front of the SUV, leaving no time to react, Moir said. The SUV was traveling 38 mph in a 35 mph zone.
“The driver said it was like a flash, the person walked out in front of them,” Moir told the publication. “His first alert to the collision was the sound of the collision.”
But an expert consulted by Fox News dissented with Moir’s take on the video.
“It absolutely should have been able to pick her up,” said Sam Abuelsmaid, an analyst for Navigant Research who follows autonomous vehicles. “From what I see in the video it sure looks like the car is at fault, not the pedestrian.”
Uber immediately suspended all testing of self-driving vehicles following the accident, and the National Transportation Safety Board dispatched a team to investigate the accident, reported The Verge.
“The video is disturbing and heartbreaking to watch, and our thoughts continue to be with Elaine’s loved ones,” an Uber spokesman told KOLD on Wednesday. “Our cars remain grounded, and we’re assisting local, state and federal authorities in any way we can.”
Several companies, including Tesla, Apple, Google and Uber, are working on self-driving vehicle technology.