Report: Uber disabled collision-avoidance tech in Tempe crash car

Mar 28, 2018, 4:55 AM | Updated: 9:18 am
(Twitter Photo/@NTSB_Newsroom)...
(Twitter Photo/@NTSB_Newsroom)
(Twitter Photo/@NTSB_Newsroom)

PHOENIX — Uber disabled the standard collision-avoidance technology in the self-driving car that struck and killed a woman in Tempe last week, according to Bloomberg.

Zach Peterson, a spokesman for Aptiv Plc, the auto-parts maker that supplied the vehicle’s radar and camera, told the publication that the Volvo XC90’s standard advanced driver-assistance system has nothing to do with Uber’s autonomous driving system.

“We don’t want people to be confused or think it was a failure of the technology that we supply for Volvo, because that’s not the case,” Peterson said.

The Volvo XC90 was the type of vehicle involved in a fatal crash in Tempe. Elaine Herzberg, 49, was killed as she was crossing the street near Mill and Curry roads earlier this month.

An Uber employee was sitting in the driver’s seat but the car was operating in autonomous mode.

Video of the crash was released in the days following the crash, which showed both the interior and exterior of the car as it drove along the dark roadway.

Herzberg was seen in the car’s headlights wheeling her red bike across the street. It then switched to the interior view which showed the employee, 44-year-old Rafael Vasquez, in the driver’s seat.

The video cut off just prior to the crash.

The publication said Aptiv started to speak up for its technology to “avoid being tainted by the fatality involving Uber.”

However, Uber may have been “following standard practice by disabling other tech as it develops and tests its own autonomous driving system.”

Mobileye, which makes chips and sensors used in collision-avoidance systems and was a supplier to Aptiv, said it tested its own software after the crash by playing a video of the incident on a television monitor.

A spokesperson for the company said it was able to detect Herzberg one second before impact, “despite the poor second-hand quality of the video relative to a direct connection to cameras equipped to the car.”

“The video released by the police seems to demonstrate that even the most basic building block of an autonomous vehicle system, the ability to detect and classify objects, is a challenging task,” Mobileye CEO Amnon Shashua wrote on Intel’s website.

“It is this same technology that is required, before tackling even tougher challenges, as a foundational element of fully autonomous vehicles of the future.”

Uber declined to comment to the publication and a Volvo spokesman said the company could not speculate on the cause of the incident.

The crash is currently being investigated by both the Tempe Police Department and the National Transportation Safety Board.

Uber has since stopped testing its autonomous vehicles in multiple cities, including the Phoenix area. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey suspended Uber from testing and operating self-driving vehicles on public roadways in Arizona on Monday.

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Report: Uber disabled collision-avoidance tech in Tempe crash car