Back in March 2018, an experimental Uber taxi driving on autopilot hit a pedestrian on a four-lane street. The victim was 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, who carelessly rolled her bike across the road. The incident occurred at about 22:00 on a street in Tempi, Arizona, USA.
The investigation into this extraordinary case, which lasted more than two years, has finally ended. This week, the Maricopa County district attorney's office submitted a three-hundred-page volume of reports from detectives and experts to the court. The main intrigue of the upcoming trial: who is to blame, human or robot?
Details of the Incident
That evening, the Volvo SUV was controlled by a computer with new, non - "run-in" software. Practical testing was conducted on city streets.
In the car was 44-year-old Rafaela Vasquez. She was in the driver's seat, but she wasn't driving a smart car. According to the test, the presence of a person was only necessary to monitor the readings on the interface and make the necessary decisions in possible emergency situations. But when this situation really occurred, Rafaela was not looking at the road. As it turned out, she was keen on a music TV show, leaning over the screen of her iPhone.
The fact that she watched the TV show on her mobile phone was confirmed by data requested by the police from the local online service Hulu, which broadcast the video content. According to Hulu, communication with this phone was suddenly interrupted at 21:59, just at the moment of impact, when a powerful shock hit him on the floor and disconnected.
In the video surveillance camera installed in the car, you can see: Vasquez looked up and managed to press the brake only at the moment of collision with a pedestrian. Meanwhile, the Uber instruction prohibits the controller, who is in the cabin of a test car traveling on the road, from using any personal mobile devices.
Although the self-driving car was traveling at 38 mph (approximately 61 km/h), the woman was fatally injured. As it turned out, the emergency braking system did not turn on. Doctors failed to save Mrs. Herzberg, and she died on the operating table of the city hospital.
The incident dealt a serious blow to Uber's innovative program for developing driverless cars. Their testing in Arizona was discontinued, but continued in other regions. After the Tempi disaster, competing companies became much more cautious. So, the Chinese Corporation Baidu announced the postponement of mass production of taxi robots to 2025.
Opinion of experts
Despite the assurances of software developers for self-driving cars, robot cars are still imperfect, and the elements of artificial intelligence embedded in them cannot predict human behavior, Professor Michael J. Smith told The Guardian. Bennett is a researcher at Arizona state University who studies aspects of automotive innovation. There is a problem in the relationship between a person and a robot vehicle, the scientist States.
Other experts emphasize the long-overdue need to tighten the rules for using the nascent technology. However, the public sector of the United States in these problems is practically not interfere by giving them the solution to private corporations.
However, no country in the world has yet developed clearly defined rules for driving self-driving cars.
Other similar incidents:
• In 2016, an experimental Uber driverless car, without slowing down at all, sped through a street intersection in San Francisco at a red light. The on-Board computer did not recognize the forbidding traffic light signal. Fortunately, the violation did not cause any victims, but the car was recorded by video cameras of another supercomputer that controls traffic on the streets of the metropolis. There was a heated debate about the safety of self-driving cars between Uber software developers and the state of California at the time.
• In the same year, the first fatal accident involving a robot car occurred in the United States, resulting in the death of a person. The computer sensors of the Tesla Motors self-driving car at the intersection did not recognize the heavy truck, and the car flew under the 18-wheel trailer at full speed. A forty-year-old employee of the company, who was in the cabin of the autopilot to control testing, died on the spot.
• In another incident, the California state police highway patrol noticed a Tesla electric car standing motionless in the middle of a busy five-lane highway. The drunk driver was sleeping in the front seat. The man said that he turned on autopilot and dozed off, he could not explain the reason for the stop.
In connection with the tragic cases that took place, the management of the web Studio of Alexander Ivanov decided to ban the use of unmanned taxis by employees involved in the maintenance of client sites on official business trips.