On March 4, 2019, prosecutors in Arizona from the Yavapai County Attorney’s office said they had not found evidence to charge Uber for any crime related to the accident in Tempe, where one of the company’s autonomous vehicles hit and killed a pedestrian.
On March 18, 2019, Elaine Herzberg was hit by one of Uber’s self-driving Volvo sport utility vehicles. The SUV was traveling about 40 miles per hour. At the time, Herzberg had been walking her bicycle across the street at night. Even though the car was driving itself, there was a safety driver in the driver’s seat. When the crash occurred, the safety driver was streaming a television show on her phone. While she grabbed the steering wheel to swerve at the last second, she did not start braking until after impact.
According to a preliminary report released by the National Transportation Safety Board, the car’s computer system spotted Herzberg six seconds prior to impact, but classified her as an unrecognized object, then another vehicle, and finally a bicycle. The vehicle was equipped with an automatic emergency braking system, but it was disabled to reduce the chances of erratic driving behaviors.
While the family of Herzberg resolved matters with Uber privately last March, the investigation did not cease. The prosecutors were unable to find a basis for criminal liability, but they did state they think investigators should look into what the safety driver should or would have seen given the vehicle’s speed, the lighting conditions, and other factors. The investigation is still ongoing.
Last March, reports were made that Uber’s self-driving cars were performing below expectations in Arizona. Safety drivers were having to intervene frequently. After the crash, Uber suspended testing autonomous vehicles. In December, however, the vehicles returned to public roads. They were put in less-challenging environments at reduced speeds.
According to The New York Times, this accident is believed to be the first pedestrian death from an autonomous vehicle. It raised questions about the safety of the technology and the few federal or state laws that exist to regulate it.
Handing a crash with Uber can be complicated, especially if it involved a self-driving vehicle. When laws aren’t in place to protect victims, building a strong case can be a challenge. With the right legal representation, however, compensation is possible. If you’ve been the victim of a rideshare accident, our team of nationwide lawyers is here for you. Contact us today to learn about your rights and options.