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NTSB Confirms Uber Self-Driving System Failure in Fatal Crash


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The autonomous driving system in an Uber test car failed to identify a pedestrian or brake to avoid striking and killing her in Arizona two months ago, says the National Transportation Safety Board.

The crash in Tempe resulted in the first fatality involving a fully automated vehicle. NTSB says the test car’s system detected the pedestrian, who was walking her bicycle across a four-lane road at night, six seconds before impact. But it couldn’t decide whether she was an unknown object, vehicle or bicycle.

The system concluded 1.3 seconds before impact that emergency braking was needed. But Uber had switched off that feature to reduce the possibility of “erratic vehicle behavior,” according to Reuters.

NTSB says the system also did not alert the safety operator sitting behind the wheel of the Uber test car because it wasn’t designed to do so. She had been looking down rather than at the road ahead until just before the crash. The safety board says the operator engaged the steering wheel less than one second before impact and began braking less than one second after impact.

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