A video showing the interior and exterior of the self-driving Uber just before and after it hit a pedestrian on March 19 has just been released by local police. The video cuts off just before the car hits Elaine Herzberg, and then cuts to a view from inside the video, showing the driver, Rafaela Vasquez. (To learn more about Rafaela, read Heavy’s story here.)
You can watch the video below. Warning: The video may be disturbing. It shows the immediate moments before the crash, including the woman walking in front of the car just before impact.
During the video, you can see the driver looking down periodically, including just before the accident. It’s not clear at this time exactly what Uber’s policies are for their back-up drivers and whether they are supposed to keep their eyes on the road at all times just as if they were actually driving. The driver, Rafaela Vasquez, is a convicted felon who served nearly four years in prison on an attempted robbery charge, Fox News reported.
This was the first death involving a self-driving vehicle. The Volvo was in autonomous mode when it Herzberg as she was walking her bicycle across the street, outside a crosswalk in Tempe, Arizona. Autonomous vehicles are equipped with laser, radar, and camera sensors that are supposed to sense pedestrian and other obstructions.
Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir said on Monday that Uber was likely not at fault, but they weren’t ruling out possible charges against the backup driver, The Verge reported. Moir said that from the footage, it appeared that the driver had very little time to react, and the sound of the collision was her first alert about what happened. “The driver said it was like a flash, the person walked out in front of them.”
Herzberg, 49, was transferred to a local hospital after she was hit and died of her injuries. The accident happened around 10 p.m. on Sunday evening.
Officials said that Herzberg was walking her bike across the street, outside a crosswalk, when she was hit, ABC 6 reported. The crash occurred near Mill Avenue and Curry Road, ABC 15 reported. The Uber was heading north and the woman was crossing from west to east when she was hit. You can view the location on Google Maps here. The vehicle was traveling 38 mph. Police said the speed limit was 35 mph, but a Google Street View shot of the road from July showed a speed limit of 45 mph.
Moir faulted Herzberg for crossing outside the crosswalk. But others have said that the area sends mixed-messages to pedestrians, since it has a brick-paved walking path that stretches across the median, and a sign warning pedestrians not to use the path.
This is the first fatal accident involving a self-driving car and a pedestrian. The number of fatal accidents involving autonomous cars is far fewer than number of fatal accidents involving traditional cars. Nearly 1.3 million people die each year in car crashes, averaging 3,287 deaths a day. In the United States in 2013, more than 32,000 people died in U.S. car crashes, amounting to about 90 deaths a day.
In a statement, Uber said, “The video is disturbing and heartbreaking to watch, and our thoughts continue to be with Elaine’s loved ones. Our cars remain grounded, and we’re assisting local, state and federal authorities in any way we can.”