NTSB reveals company’s reckless approach; CR urges strong safety rules for self-driving cars
WASHINGTON, D.C. — New documents released from an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board include alarming details about major problems with an Uber self-driving car that struck and killed an Arizona woman while the vehicle was being tested in 2018.
The documents describe how the Uber vehicle could not anticipate the actions of pedestrians crossing the street away from a crosswalk, and was explicitly designed not to hit the brakes to reduce the severity of an unavoidable crash. The NTSB has found that Uber did not have a formal safety plan, a standardized operations procedure, or guiding document for safety for its vehicle testing.
Consumer Reports says the documents make it clear that this automated driving system was tested on public streets long before it was safe to be on the road, and the system’s limitations and failures made it far too dangerous to be tested anywhere other than a closed track.
“This report reveals outrageous safety lapses by Uber that ended with a person being killed. Rather than doing everything it could to prevent a fatal collision, Uber passed the buck to a single ‘backup driver,’” said Ethan Douglas, senior policy analyst for Consumer Reports.
Safety research has shown consistently that backup drivers in vehicles with automated driving systems cannot be relied on to react quickly in emergencies. People not actively engaged in driving can all too easily be lulled into inattention, and even if they are paying attention, they’re still passive observers not primed for a quick reaction, CR has found.
“We hope Uber has cleaned up its act, but without mandatory standards for self-driving cars, there will always be companies out there that skimp on safety. We need smart, strong safety rules in place for self-driving cars to reach their lifesaving potential,” Douglas added.
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