There were no software glitches or sensor breakdowns that led to a fatal crash, merely poor object recognition, emergency planning, system design, testing methodology, and human operation.
On March 18, at 9:58 p.m., a self-driving Uber car killed Elaine Herzberg. The vehicle was driving itself down an uncomplicated road in suburban Tempe, Arizona, when it hit her. Herzberg, who was walking across the mostly empty street, was the first pedestrian killed by an autonomous vehicle.
The preliminary National Transportation Safety Board report on the incident, released on Thursday, shows that Herzberg died because of a cascading series of errors, human and machine, which present a damning portrait of Uber’s self-driving testing practices at the time.
Perhaps the worst part of the report is that Uber’s system functioned as designed. There were no software glitches or sensor malfunctions. It just didn’t work very well.