Uber on Monday said it has hired a former US regulator to advise the company on safety, but would not confirm a technology website’s report that a software flaw was responsible for a fatal accident involving one of its self-driving cars in March.
The Information reported that Uber has determined the likely cause of the fatal collision in March was a problem with the software that decides how a self-driving car should react to objects it detects. The outlet said the car’s sensors detected a pedestrian but the software decided it did not need to react right away. Uber declined to comment on the report.
A 49-year-old woman was killed on March 18 after an Uber self-driving sports utility vehicle hit her while she was walking across a street. The incident led the ride-share company to suspend testing of autonomous vehicles. Arizona’s governor also ordered a halt to Uber’s testing.
“We can’t comment on the specifics of the incident,” the company said, citing an ongoing investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.
The company said it was looking at its self-driving program.
“We have initiated a top-to-bottom safety review of our self-driving vehicles program, and we have brought on former NTSB Chair Christopher Hart to advise us on our overall safety culture,” Uber said. “Our review is looking at everything from the safety of our system to our training processes for vehicle operators, and we hope to have more to say soon.”
In a video of the crash released by police, the vehicle appeared not to brake before it struck the woman.
The NTSB is expected to issue a preliminary report on the Arizona Uber crash in the coming weeks.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is also investigating the incident and declined to comment.
Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi said in April that Uber still believes in prospects for autonomous transport. “Autonomous (vehicles) at maturity will be safer,” he said at a Washington event.
Hart was chairman of the NTSB when it opened a probe into a fatal Tesla crash involving a driver using the system’s Autopilot system.
Hart said in 2016 that self-driving cars will not be perfect.
“There will be fatal crashes, that’s for sure,” Hart said, but added that will not derail the move toward driverless cars. “This train has already left the station.”