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NTSB report: Uber in fatal Arizona crash gave driver 1.3-second warning

This image made from video Sunday, March 18, 2018, of a mounted camera provided by the Tempe Police Department shows an exterior view moments before an Uber SUV hit a woman in Tempe, Ariz. Video of a deadly self-driving vehicle crash in suburban Phoenix shows the pedestrian walking from a darkened area onto a street just moments before the crash. (Tempe Police Department via AP)

PHOENIX – Sensors on the Uber self-driving SUV that struck and killed a woman in Tempe didn’t trigger an emergency braking alert until 1.3 seconds before she was hit, according to a preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board released Thursday.

The report does not name a probable cause for the fatal accident, which occurred when the Volvo SUV was operating in autonomous mode with an operator in the driver’s seat on Mill Avenue near Curry Road in March.

The operator engaged the steering wheel less than a second before impact and began braking less than a second after impact, the report said.

The SUV’s self-driving system first observed the woman six seconds before impact while the vehicle was going 43 mph.

According to data obtained from the self-driving system, it first identified her as an unknown object, then a vehicle and then a bicycle before determining that emergency braking was needed.

However, Uber told the NTSB that emergency braking is not enabled while the vehicle is under computer control to reduce the potential for erratic behavior, and the operator is relied on to take action after an alert is sent.

Elaine Herzberg, 49, was walking her bicycle across Mill Avenue on March 18 at night in a poorly lit area when she was hit.

It was the first fatal accident involving a self-driving vehicle in the United States.

Uber suspended its self-driving vehicle test program after the incident. On Wednesday, the ride-sharing company announced that it was winding down its Arizona operations.

Testing had also been halted in Pittsburgh and San Francisco, but it was set to resume in Pittsburgh.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey already had ordered the Uber road tests to stop after the accident.

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