Autonomous Uber car that caused fatal accident had deactivated emergency brake

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The autonomously driving Uber car that caused a fatal accident in March had not activated its emergency brakes. Uber is disabling the emergency brakes to prevent possible “erratic behavior” of the vehicle.

At the time just before hitting the pedestrian crossing the road, Uber’s autonomous driving system determined that an emergency braking procedure had to be initiated to avoid a collision. While the vehicle, a modified Volvo XC90, has emergency braking functionality, Uber had disabled it as it said it could potentially lead to “erratic behavior.”

The driver is expected to intervene in cases of emergency braking, but does not receive a notification. Volvo’s system, called City Safety, also has functions to monitor driver alertness, but this too is disabled when Uber’s computer controls are activated. Uber holds the driver responsible for monitoring diagnostic messages that appear on the dashboard and for tagging high-profile events.

This is according to preliminary findings of the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation into the fatal accident. A car driving in autonomous mode using Uber’s system hit a woman crossing the road in the US state of Arizona in March, who died of her injuries.

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