By Barry Eitel
Uber deactivated an emergency braking system in a self-driving car involved in a fatal crash in Arizona earlier this year, federal investigators said in a report released Thursday.
The report from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) comes one day after Uber announced it would close down its automated vehicle program in Arizona, although the company said it would continue to experiment with self-driving cars in other states.
A Volvo outfitted with Uber’s self-driving technology struck and killed a female pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona on the evening of March 18. The car detected the woman six seconds before impact and determined that emergency braking was required about 1.3 seconds before the crash, according to the NTSB.
However, the car’s automated safety braking system was deactivated by Uber in order “to reduce the potential for erratic vehicle behavior,” the report said.
Without an automatic system, Uber’s policy was to rely on the human operator inside the vehicle, but there was no alert that a crash was imminent.
The driver did not apply the brake until after the woman was struck.
Uber said in a statement that it has been cooperating with the NTSB and is making safety more of a priority in the future.
“As their investigation continues, we've initiated our own safety review of our self-driving vehicles program,” the company said.
The woman had apparently stepped out of some shrubbery with a bicycle and a posthumous screening found that she had narcotics in her system. Although she was crossing in a dark area, presumably a human driver would have likely seen her, the report suggested.