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New Evidence in Self-Driving Car Fatality Revealed: Technology May Not Be at Fault

May 29th, 2018
By Zach Christiansen of The Bowling Christiansen Law Firm, A Professional Law Corporation posted in Injuries on Tuesday, May 29, 2018.

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana. Initial reports from the National Transportation Safety Board indicate what might have gone wrong in the recent fatal self-driving vehicle accident that left a pedestrian dead. The case is important to New Orleans residents because the state has been looking closely at using the new technology in the city. According to WGNO, New Orleans is considering using self-driving buses. In order to promote the new technology, the public was recently invited to take demonstration rides on autonomous zero-emission buses. It isn’t a matter of if, but when, self-driving technology will be permitted on New Orleans’s roads. Looking to the accident in Arizona can help officials better understand what went wrong, so it doesn’t happen again.


So, what went wrong? It appears that the technology itself wasn’t entirely to blame in the crash. In fact, the sensors on the self-driving car did precisely what they were designed to do. They identified something in the road, and seconds before the crash occurred, the sensors identified the individual as a biker. Unfortunately, according to the Atlantic, Uber had disabled the vehicle’s emergency brakes. Why? The company wanted to ensure that passengers enjoyed a smoother ride. Rather than having the emergency brakes activated, Uber hired a back-up driver to ride in the vehicle and stop the vehicle in the event of an emergency. Unfortunately, the back-up driver failed because she was distracted at the time of the accident. To make matters even worse, the car had no system in place to warn the operator that its emergency brakes would not deploy. Furthermore, when the car initially identified an “object” in the road, the car did nothing to alert the back-up driver.

So, what we have here may not be a case of technological failure at all, but rather a case of distracted driving and poor corporate decision-making. The Atlantic notes that the self-driving car’s sensors may have failed to identify the biker soon enough, which could have led to the vehicle misjudging the pedestrian’s trajectory.

The back-up driver claims that she was distracted because she was looking at the car’s self-driving interface. While some believed she may have been looking at her phone, it has come to light that one of her duties was indeed to monitor the self-driving interface system. This is simply asking too much of one person. A person cannot be expected to drive and monitor a computer, just as a person should not drive and read text messages. While other self-driving companies employ two people to monitor the road and the system, Uber only had one back-up driver behind the wheel.

According to the Atlantic, Uber has already settled a case with the victims’ family and it isn’t clear whether the company will face any legal repercussions for its decisions. At the end of the day, this case highlights the real risk that distracted driving poses.

If you or a loved one has been hurt in a distracted driving car accident, you may have rights. The The Bowling Christiansen Law Firm are personal injury lawyers in New Orleans, Louisiana who work closely with victims and families to help them seek damages under the law. Visit us at today to learn more.

The Bowling Christiansen Law Firm, A Professional Law Corporation

1615 Poydras Street, Suite 1050

New Orleans, Louisiana, 70112

Phone: (504) 586-5200

Toll Free: (504) 586-5200

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