Police investigating the first pedestrian fatality caused by an autonomous car have released footage of how the tragic accident occurred.
We’ve chosen not to embed the Uber-operated car’s footage here because, although it stops a split-second before the fateful impact itself, by its nature it’s disturbing to watch. If you wish, you can view it on Twitter here, but we’ve offered fair warning.
Crucially, this footage shows that Elaine Herzberg, 49, didn’t simply dart out into the road as had previously been reported: she was crossing it in what should have been plain sight of the sensor array. That the car apparently didn’t detect her at all is terrifying.
The car’s interior camera shows the human back-up driver looking down for long moments before the crash. From this footage the driver wouldn’t have had much warning from the car’s dipped headlights, but the human eye can see greater contrast than the camera can, and could potentially have seen Herzberg crossing if it hadn’t been for whatever the lap-sited distraction was.
Local police in Tempe, Arizona, have reported that the Uber prototype was travelling at 38mph in a 35mph-limited area; something we thought autonomous cars wouldn’t allow. Travelling slower, the car may have missed Herzberg altogether or given the driver more time to react. Judging by the evidence here, this accident was totally preventable by both machine and human.