Arizona police: Pedestrian stepped in front of self-driving Uber before crash

Police in Tempe, Arizona, say early indications are that a woman struck and killed by a self-driving Uber care had abruptly stepped in front of it, according to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle.

The victim, Elaine Herzberg, 49, suddenly walked from a center median into a lane of traffic before being hit by the car operating in autonomous mode, Sylvia Moir, police chief in Tempe, told the newspaper. 

"The driver said it was like a flash, the person walked out in front of them," Moir told the newspaper of the human backup driver.

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NTSB investigators in Tempe, Arizona, examine the Uber vehicle involved in a fatal accident with a pedestrian on March 18, 2018.

NTSB

A preliminary investigation by police found that the self-driving vehicle was traveling at 38 miles an hour in a 35 mile-an-hour zone Sunday night when the accident occurred, the newspaper reported. The vehicle did not try to brake. 

Herzberg, who had reportedly been pushing a bicycle weighed down by plastic bags, was taken from the scene unconscious and was pronounced dead from her injuries at a nearby hospital.

The self-driving Volvo SUV was equipped with at least two video cameras, one looking forward toward the road and the second aimed at the driver inside the car, Moir told the Chronicle. Based on video, "it's very clear it would have been difficult to avoid this collision in any kind of mode (autonomous or human-driven) based on how she came from the shadows right into the roadway," Moir said.

"I suspect preliminarily it appears that the Uber would likely not be at fault," she also told the newspaper.

The National Transportation Safety Board is also investigating the accident, which prompted Uber to suspend all road-testing of self-driving vehicles in the in the Phoenix area, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto.

Police in Tempe did not immediately return requests for comment.