Uber Deadly Driver Wasn’t Looking at Road When Hit Bicyclist in AZ

National Transportation Safety Board investigators examine the Uber
self-driving vehicle that struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona on
March 19, 2018. (National Transportation Safety Board)

Recent news reports show the backup driver in the self-driving Uber car was looking down and not paying attention reportedly due to increased pressure on Uber to have ridesharing self-driving cars by the end of the year. It was also reported that the Uber self-driving were having problems cars construction zones and next to tall vehicles, like big rig trucks.  Drivers frequently had to take over with a rate of 13 miles per driver intervention. Uber has more than 150 autonomous cars running in Phoenix. According to NY Times report one driver was reportedly fired after falling asleep at the wheel, and another was reportedly seen

The driver served time for two felony convictions, but met company requirements for hiring.

ADEPT Driver, a research and development company that created teenSMART and other proven crash avoidance training programs, issued the following statement in response to a recent self-driving vehicle-involved fatality.

“This terrible tragedy is a sad reminder of the dangers of overreliance on autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicle technology,” said Dr. Richard Harkness, CEO of ADEPT Driver. “In this heartbreaking case, a driver was behind the wheel, but did not override the technology that missed seeing the pedestrian who was killed.”

ADEPT Driver has long cautioned drivers to be aware of the limitations of autonomous vehicle technology, and not become complacent when operating vehicles equipped with these features. Last spring, ADEPT released a free video that demonstrates the strengths and limitations of the new technologies that are available in cars today.

“This incident is a wake-up call for drivers to acquire advanced crash avoidance skills when operating cars with emerging technologies,” said Dr. Harkness. “This tragic event underscores the need for neuro-cognitive training that allows the driver to quickly scan the driving environment and identify hazards.”

According to news reports, a woman in Tempe, Arizona was struck and killed by a self-driving car on Sunday. At the time of the collision, a vehicle operator was reportedly behind the wheel but the car was in autonomous mode. A video released by the Tempe police department shows the driver looking down, eyes off the road, for five seconds before the crash. “This appears to be a clear case of driver complacency,” Dr. Harkness said.

In five years, over half of the cars on the road are forecast to have at least some self-driving features, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

When using ADEPT Driver products, drivers develop the neuro-cognitive pathways that are associated with visual awareness and crash avoidance. Research has shown a 30% reduction in crash frequency and a 51% reduction in bodily injury for those completing the training. ADEPT’s products are the only validated training programs that measurably improve visual search, hazard detection, risk perception  and gap analysis – factors that cause more than 90% of all collisions.

“When operating autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles, the driver must be ready to quickly and without warning scan, detect hazards and take control of the vehicle,” said Dr. Harkness. “If your brain is not trained to do this specific task, chances are the crash will happen before you recognize it.”