The tragic accident happened in the spring of 2018 in Tempe, a suburb of Phoenix, USA. Uber Technologies’ self-driving Volvo XC90 knocked down a drugged homeless woman pushing a bike across a darkened road. The car could not correctly recognize the pedestrian, so it did not start braking. The 43-year-old woman died of her injuries.
It was the first fatal collision of an autonomous vehicle with a pedestrian.
Two and a half years after the accident in Arizona, the backup driver was charged with negligent homicide, writes the Daily Mail.
Rafaela Vasquez worked as a backup safety driver. Her task was to monitor the road and supervise the autonomous systems in the test car. In case of autopilot failure, she should take control. Instead, before the accident, she watched The Voice singing on her phone and didn’t pay much attention to traffic.
Footage of the tragic accident and the seconds just before it:
Police subsequently said the accident could have been avoided. The US National Transportation Safety Administration (NTSB) confirmed that an autonomous Volvo could not correctly identify the pedestrian and could not prevent the accident on its own.
The office accused Vasquez of inaction and Uber of some erroneous decisions and insufficient attention paid to safety in the development of an autonomous vehicle.
After the tragedy, Uber ended its program of testing autonomous cars in Arizona. In any case, prosecutors said last March that U was not criminally responsible for the accident.
According to the NTSB, the probable cause of the accident was precisely that Vasquez did not monitor the traffic. She has now told the court that she feels innocent. So far she has been released, the trial is set to begin next February.