Uber disabled safety component in self-driving car before fatal crash, company alleges

Uber is accused of disabling software in the self-driving car that struck and killed a person last week. Elaine Herzberg, left, was run over by a car "driven" by Rafaela Vasquez.

Uber was accused Tuesday of disabling the software in the self-driving Volvo vehicle that fatally struck a woman last week in Arizona.

Aptiv PLC, the company that makes the collision-avoidance technology, told Bloomberg that Uber disabled the software in the self-driving SUV that killed Elaine Herzberg, 49, as she was crossing a street in Tempe on March 18.

“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,” Aptiv PLC spokesman Zach Peterson told Bloomberg. “The Volvo XC90’s standard advanced driver-assistance system ‘has nothing to do’ with the Uber test vehicle’s autonomous driving system.”

UBER SUSPENDED FROM TESTING SELF-DRIVING CARS IN ARIZONA

Uber declined to comment on the accusation and Volvo told Bloomberg they were waiting for the investigation to be completed before they speculated. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey suspended Uber from testing autonomous vehicles in the state following the deadly incident.

Mobileye, which produces the sensor chips in the safety systems supplied to Aptiv PLC, told Bloomberg it tested the software Monday following the crash by watching the footage of the accident. The company said the software “was able to detect Herzberg one second before impact in its internal tests” despite the video’s poor visual quality.

The software by Aptiv, using the sensors and chips from Mobileye, make the vehicle able to detect a person or object nearby in order to avoid hitting it. Vehicles with the technology are able to stop automatically if it detects an object.

Last week, police released camera footage of the crash which showed both exterior and interior angles of the car ride leaving up to the moment the SUV struck Herzberg. The interior video showed the car’s driver, Rafaela Vasquez, 44, buckled in behind the wheel of the vehicle that was reportedly moving around 40 miles per hour.

While the Volvo SUV was in self-driving mode, Vasquez was in the car as a safety driver, who, in the event there was a malfunction or issue, could take control.

FILE - In this March 1, 2017 file photo, people enter the headquarters of Uber in San Francisco. Uber suspended all of its self-driving testing Monday, March 19, 2018, after what is believed to be the first fatal pedestrian crash involving the vehicles. The testing has been going on for months in the Phoenix area, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto as automakers and technology companies compete to be the first with the technology. Uber's testing was halted after police in a Phoenix suburb said one of its self-driving vehicles struck and killed a pedestrian overnight Sunday. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

Uber bought 24,000 Volvo SUV’s for its self-driving vehicles.  (AP)

In the moments before the car struck Herzberg, Vasquez is seen repeatedly looking down, seemingly toward the console area of the car, until she suddenly looks shocked at the pedestrian in front of her.

Exterior video shows the Uber car driving at night when the vehicle’s headlights suddenly illuminate Herzberg, who is walking her bike in the street, outside of any crosswalks. Police have said neither Herzberg nor Vasquez showed signs of impairment in the crash.

Paramedics rushed Herzberg to a local hospital, where she died from her injuries. Police have said neither Herzberg nor Vasquez showed signs of impairment in the crash, and Vasquez has been cooperating in their investigation.

The incident was the first fatality involving a self-driving vehicle.

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