Report: A manager at Uber’s self-driving unit warned executives about safety issues just days before fatal crash

Less than a week before an Uber i self-driving SUV prototype struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona last March, a manager sent executives an email cautioning that its autonomous vehicle unit needed to “work on establishing a culture rooted in safety,” reports The Information.

Robbie Miller, then a manager in the unit’s testing operations, was preparing to leave the company when he warned that “cars are routinely in accidents resulting in damage” and backup drivers, who sit behind the wheel in self-driving cars for safety reasons, weren’t properly trained or fired even if they made repeated mistakes.

In his March 13 email, Miller wrote that “the cars are routinely in accidents resulting in damage. This is usually the result of poor behavior of the operator or the AV technology. A car was damaged nearly every other day in February. We shouldn’t be hitting things every 15,000 miles. Repeated infractions for poor driving rarely results in termination. Several of the drivers appear to not have been properly vetted or trained.” Miller, who previously held positions in self-driving programs at Google and Otto, also gave a comprehensive list of suggestions he believed would reduce the likelihood of accidents.

Five days later, on March 18, the Tempe collision occurred, resulting in the death of 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, who was crossing a street when she was hit by the SUV. Uber immediately halted testing of its autonomous cars on public roads and reached a settlement with Herzberg’s family two weeks later. It was later revealed in a police report that the car’s backup safety driver was watching videos on her phone when the crash occurred. The incident also raised serious questions about the safety of Uber’s self-driving technology system.

13. Dezember 2018

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