Here’s the fundamental flaw with self-driving cars: Humans


An Arizona police report says the backup driver in an Uber autonomous SUV was streaming a television show on Hulu just before the vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian in March.

According to a spreadsheet provided by Hulu, it showed Vasquez' account was playing "The Voice" just prior to the crash. The report, as quoted by AZCentral, said: "Sometimes, her face appears to react and show a smirk or laugh at various points during the times that she is looking down".

Police said Uber driver Rafaela Vasquez was repeatedly looking down and not at the road and only glanced up in the instant right before her vehicle struck Herzberg. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey prohibited Uber from continuing its tests of self-driving cars after Herzberg was run over. Given the speed of the auto at the time, it could have traveled for more than 300 feet without Vasquez checking the road. Given the findings in this latest report, the likelihood of vehicular manslaughter charges against Vasquez has certainly increased. It ended at 9:59pm, which "coincides with the approximate time of the collision", according to the report.

We've seen this before - drivers using semi-autonomous or almost autonomous features in cars start looking away from the road, going on their phones, and watching much more entertaining things like TV shows and movies.

An Uber spokeswoman announced the company was undergoing a "top-to-bottom safety review" last month.

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Uber has fired several safety drivers for breaking the mobile device policy, the spokesperson said.

A photo from the police report show's the self-driving Uber's front-end damage after the fatal crash. Cars in Uber's self-driving cars are back on the roads after the program was temporarily halted following a crash in Tempe, Arizona on March 19.

The police documents also back up previous reports that Uber's self-driving vehicles were unable to perform emergency braking, relying entirely on the human driver to intervene in a risky situation.

Ms Vasquez looked up from her phone screen about 0.5 seconds before the crash, said the report, but had been concentrating on her phone for about 5.3 seconds previously.

However, police have determined the collision was "entirely avoidable".

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"She appears to be looking down at the area near her right knee at various points in the video", the report reads.

County Attorney Bill Montgomery had the case transferred to the Yavapai County Attorney's Office to avoid any conflicts of interest. She told NTSB investigators she was monitoring the self-driving system's interface.

Uber said in a statement that any use of a cellphone while a vehicle is in drive is a fireable offense and that, "This is emphasized during training and on an ongoing basis". Of the almost 22 minutes that elapsed during that distance, Vasquez was looking down for 6 minutes and 47 seconds, the newspaper reported.

At the time of the accident, Vasquez had both business and personal phones in the vehicle.

On a body camera video the night of the crash, police gathered at the scene quickly realized that they were dealing with a big story because an autonomous vehicle was involved.

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