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Arizona police release video of fatal collision with Uber self-driving SUV

Tempe, Arizona

POLICE in Arizona on Wednesday released a short video of a fatal collision between an Uber self-driving vehicle and a pedestrian, as investigators probe the accident that has put new focus on the safety of autonomous vehicles.

The video, taken from inside the Volvo XC90 sport utility vehicle that Uber has used for testing, shows the car driving along a dark road when an image of a woman walking a bicycle across the road suddenly appears in the headlights. Elaine Herzberg, 49, later died from her injuries.

Police have released few details about the accident that occurred on Sunday night in Tempe, Arizona, while the SUV was driving in autonomous mode. Uber suspended its self-driving testing in North America after the incident and federal safety regulators are conducting their own probe. Fall-out from the accident could stall the development and testing of self-driving vehicles, which are designed to perform far better than human drivers and sharply reduce the number of motor vehicle fatalities that occur each year.

The video shows the SUV travelling in the right-hand lane of a divided four-lane roadway. Its headlights illuminate a woman in front of it who is crossing the SUV's lane with her bike. She appears to be jaywalking as she is not in a crosswalk. A photo released by safety regulators on Tuesday showed that the impact occurred on the right side of the car.

Uber said in a statement: "Our cars remain grounded, and we're assisting local, state and federal authorities in any way we can." The video is likely to be a key part of investigations of Uber's self-driving car technology and whether it was ready for testing on public roads. Although the specifics of Uber's technology are not known, self-driving cars typically use a combination of sensors, including radar and light-based Lidar, to identify objects around the vehicle, including potential obstacles coming into range. While cameras do not perform well in the dark, radar and Lidar can work at night.

One question on regulators' minds will be why the sensors did not pick up on the presence of Ms Herzberg, who would likely have already crossed three lanes of traffic before arriving in the path of the SUV.

The video is likely to renew calls for more oversight in a nascent industry that lacks standardised testing or safety definitions. Lawmakers have had to juggle the need to encourage innovations that promise to dramatically improve safety on roads with public safety concerns. REUTERS