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Self-driving Uber in crash not equipped to recognise jaywalkers

Washington

UBER Technologies Inc.'s self-driving test car that struck and killed a pedestrian last year wasn't programmed to recognise and react to jaywalkers, according to documents released by US safety investigators.

The US National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday released more than 400 pages of reports and supporting documents on the March 2018 crash that killed 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg as she walked her bicycle across a road at night in Tempe, Arizona.

The documents painted a picture of safety and design lapses with tragic consequences but didn't assign a cause for the crash. The safety board is scheduled to do that at a Nov 19 meeting in Washington.

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A company statement said: "We deeply value the thoroughness of the NTSB's investigation into the crash and look forward to reviewing their recommendations once issued after the NTSB's board meeting later this month," the company said in a statement.

The company said it regrets the incident and has made critical improvements to prioritise safety. The case is being closely watched in the emerging industry of self-driving vehicles, a technology that has attracted billions of dollars in investment from companies such as General Motors Co. and Alphabet Inc. in an attempt to transform transportation. The report said "the system design did not include a consideration for jaywalking pedestrians" like Ms Herzberg.

The Uber vehicle's radar sensors first observed Ms Herzberg about 5.6 seconds prior to impact before she entered the vehicle's lane of travel, and initially classified her as a vehicle. But the system changed its classification of her as different objects several times and failed to predict that her path would cross the lane of self-driving test SUV, according to the NTSB.

Uber made extensive changes to its self-driving system after several reviews of its operation and findings by NTSB investigators. The company told NTSB that the new software would have been able to correctly identify Ms Herzberg and triggered controlled braking to avoid her more than four seconds before the original impact, NTSB said.

The safety driver behind the wheel of the car was watching a video on a mobile device and didn't see Ms Herzberg in time. BLOOMBERG