Grim Milestone: Uber Driver Pleads Guilty in First-Ever Deadly Self-Driving Crash


For her part in the deadly 2018 collision in Tempe, Arizona, Rafaela Vasquez, a former backup driver for Uber’s autonomous vehicle program, received a three-year probationary period. At the time, Vasquez, the safety driver, entered a guilty plea to one count of endangerment. Elaine Herzberg was killed in the event when a self-driving Uber vehicle struck and killed her as she crossed the street on a bicycle.

The March 18th accident was important since it was the first fatal incident with a self-driving vehicle. Vasquez, who has been referred to be “the eyes and ears” of the autonomous car, was operating the vehicle at the time of the crash. Prosecutors claimed that Vasquez was streaming “The Voice” on her phone while the accident occurred while the car was in autonomous mode. Vasquez, however, asserted that she had temporarily looked away from the road while monitoring the car’s systems.

Investigators discovered that despite detecting Herzberg 5.6 seconds before contact, the vehicle did not come to a complete stop. Herzberg was neither correctly identified by the system as a human, nor was her course correctly predicted. This incident has brought up important issues regarding the security of testing autonomous technology and assigning blame in the event of mishaps.

Although the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) completed a probe that exposed safety flaws within the firm in 2019, Uber was not charged criminally for the collision. Inadequate safety risk assessment processes, inefficient backup driver supervision, and a failure to address safety drivers’ “automation complacency” were all cited by the NTSB. With the family of Herzberg, Uber reached a confidential settlement.

Uber’s self-driving experiments were temporarily put on hold as a result of the accident, and the firm later shifted its autonomous car program to another organization. Currently, Uber and Alphabet’s Waymo work together to offer driverless car rides in Phoenix. The incident highlights the difficulties and moral questions that surround the research, development, and testing of self-driving technology.

Image: ABC 15

2 thoughts on “Grim Milestone: Uber Driver Pleads Guilty in First-Ever Deadly Self-Driving Crash”

  1. Meghla Akter

    This accident shows how tricky it is to make self-driving cars safe. It’s a sad example of the problems that can happen when we use new technology like this.

    1. You’re absolutely right. Self-driving cars hold great promise, but incidents like these underscore the importance of rigorous testing, safety measures, and continuous improvement in autonomous technology to ensure it lives up to its potential.

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