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Uber Not At Fault Says Police Chief, Hyundai Rolls Back Plans

A woman in a posted no-walk zone stepped in front of a car and was killed. Videos show the driver had no time to react.

The case is already closed on yesterday's self-driving Uber fatality. Well, not quite, but it should be. Parades of Luddites, anti-technology fools, and parasitic lawyers will undoubtedly keep this incident stewing for weeks or longer.

Let's turn to a police statement, blasted by some as "inappropriate": Uber ‘likely’ not at fault in deadly self-driving car crash, police chief says.

Uber was likely not at fault in the deadly crash of its self-driving vehicle in Arizona on Sunday evening, Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir told the San Francisco Chronicle in a startling interview the following day. Her comments have caused a stir in this closely watched investigation, which is being characterized as the first human killed by an autonomous vehicle.

“I suspect preliminarily it appears that the Uber would likely not be at fault in this accident,” Moir told the Chronicle, adding, “I won’t rule out the potential to file charges against the [backup driver] in the Uber vehicle.”

The vehicle was traveling 38 mph, though it is unclear whether that was above or below the speed limit. (Police said the speed limit was 35 mph, but a Google Street View shot of the roadway taken last July shows a speed limit of 45 mph along that stretch of road.) The driver, 44-year-old Rafaela Vasquez, has given a statement to police.

Police have viewed footage from two of the vehicle’s cameras, one facing forward toward the street, and the other inside the car facing the driver. Based on the footage, Moir said that the driver had little time to react. “The driver said it was like a flash, the person walked out in front of them,” she said. “His first alert to the collision was the sound of the collision.”

Safe streets advocates were quick to denounce Moir’s comments as tone deaf, inappropriate, and possibly misinformed.

Misinformed - No

The police chief should not have backed down. A woman walking a bicycle and carrying bags was in a marked no-travel zone attempting to cross seven lanes of traffic at night.

Release the footage, close the case, and be done with it. Here's a Google view of the accident site.

I will suggest a possibility no one else has. Was the woman attempting to get get killed or cause an accident to make a statement?

I am not saying this is likely but it is possible.

Mish Reader Comment

@mish, I will suggest a possibility no one else has. Was the woman attempting to get get killed or cause an accident to make a statement? Well, a couple years ago, I spent a lot of time in Vegas. Sitting at traffic lights, more than once I and my dash cam observed a guy standing at the curb, at the crosswalk waiting for traffic to start moving, then stepping out, slapping the side of the car and rolling on the ground next to it. One time, on Flamingo, a guy started to step into me, and I pointed at the camera on the windshield, and he stepped back up on the curb.

I added that comment from reader "AWC" after the article was posted. Here is another, from the article.

By the way ...

"Court records show Vasquez has a criminal record in Arizona under a different legal name. [...] Records from the Arizona Department of Corrections show Vasquez served three years and 10 months in a state prison for convictions on attempted armed robbery and unsworn falsification. She was released from prison in 2005."

Nonsense From Hyundai

"Especially under these circumstances, the Korean automaker isn't bothered by not being first."

Hmmm. Precisely what circumstances is the exec talking about?

In case you do not have the answer, here it is: Hyundai is miserably behind on technology and is praying for a slowdown in roll-out, hoping to catch up.

Nope. Progress is unstoppable. This incident will not slow the pace.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

As a follow up I have to ask why you don’t help your best friend out of her predicament? Do you not have a couch?

The program is designed to avoid pedestrians, but NOT to stop the car for every bird that flies by. So somewhere in that program a decision is made, like putting a chemical additive in food that might cause problems to one or two people in a million. If the car was programmed for 100% pedestrian safety the car (a taxi) would never get anywhere. As long as the violence is within tolerable limits, then the company is not liable. We all want to believe that this car will never run over anyone, and its a car, and it will.

So the first self driving car, meets the first self-immolating pedestrian? I mean we have death by commuter train all the time, and while homeless people may not be acting with self destructive intent, they often use no common sense or caution walking or bicycling,

“The program is designed to avoid pedestrians, but NOT to stop the car for every bird that flies by. So somewhere in that program a decision is made, like putting a chemical additive in food that might cause problems to one or two people in a million. If the car was programmed for 100% pedestrian safety the car (a taxi) would never get anywhere. As long as the violence is within tolerable limits, then the company is not liable.”

This was plenty of open space around the pedestrian. Who is a good bit larger than, and very distinguishable from, a bird. If the pedestrian was within line of sight, and her movement weren’t erratic, quick and unpredictable in the extreme, something went wrong here.

Ambulance chasers, lobbyists and banksters/inveeestors may prattle on about large-number statistics they don’t understand, in an effort to weasel their way out of responsibility for individual accidents; but no one with sufficient aptitude to do something useful with their lives, would ever program a car to run over a pedestrian on an open road on purpose, over some vague nonsense about AVs still being “safer” than “human drivers” in some supposedly undifferentiated aggregate.

And yes: This means AVs will never get anywhere in environments densepacked with humans. Not without said humans being willing to cooperate with them. Once/if AVs go from being a neat novelty, to a mass of irritating “other drivers,” it will inevitably come down to draconian surveillance and penalties for anyone operating in what is now considered a reasonable way to get around. Slowly but surely making roads sufficiently inhospitable to humans, to make them de facto no-go zones for non-AVs.

The death is tragic but it also appears the woman wasn't even looking while she crossed.

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