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Drive-By: Death by Robot — Uber self-driving car crash in Tempe, Arizona

When you are asleep at the wheel you never see the junkie with the bicycle sliding into the road.

Tempe, Arizona police have released a video showing the fatal collision that occurred on March 19, 2018. The video shows the exterior view of the Uber vehicle leading up to the collision, however it does not include the collision itself due to the graphic nature of the impact. It also shows the interior view of the vehicle operator leading up to the collision.

Uber’s Death Car and the Cracks in Liberal Culture | Spengler

The video shows a woman walking her bicycle across the highway: the Uber car was going at a good clip and coming over a rise. Not quite three seconds pass between the first sight of the pedestrian and impact, enough time for an alert human driver to spin the wheel. The human driver in the car was supposed to correct for machine errors, but the video shows one Rafaela Vasquez a/k/a Rafael Vasquez staring downwards until the moment of the crash. Reports Arizona’s 12News:

According to records from the Arizona Department of Corrections, the safety driver sitting in the front seat of a self-driving Uber in Tempe at the time of a fatal pedestrian crash is a convicted felon.
The driver, 44-year-old Rafaela Vasquez, served several years in prison under the name Rafael Vasquez. She was charged with unsworn falsification and attempt to commit armed robbery. She was released from prison in 2005.

The Wizard turns out to be an obese and indifferent minimum-wage employee with a prison record pretending to work while Uber pretends to pay him or her, as the case may be.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • u.k.(us) March 22, 2018, 5:49 PM

    Now prove a negative.

  • Monty James March 22, 2018, 6:24 PM

    Wouldn’t say she jumped in front of the car. Does anyone know the speed it was going?

  • ghostsniper March 22, 2018, 7:07 PM

    Uber sure knows how to pick em, eh?

    Been thinking about this “self driving” vehicle business since the first time I heard about it and my thinking is, based on the idea that humans can never be speculated 100%, that if auto-rides will exist they will do so only in environments prohibited to humans. IOW, since humans are infinitely unpredictable there is no way they should ever be in the proximity of humanless machinary.

    There ya go. A whole nuther set of roads, er, tunnels, pipes at it were, elevated 20′ up in the air next to current roads and the auto-rides will motivate inside them so as to keep their damages to a minimum. Giant vacuum tubes with mechanicals and organics combined inside and propelled like your paycheck at the bank. Hit the button in NY and 30 seconds later you are in LA. Surround the whole tube with magnets and reverse magnets and that whole space-time continuum thing can be avoided. Thank you, thank you veddy much.

  • Casey Klahn March 22, 2018, 9:36 PM

    The trans *driver* is immune from criticism for social-cultural reasons. There, I fixed it.

  • M. Murcek March 23, 2018, 6:58 AM

    My guess is the Uber diversity director wet zerself when this hire occurred.

  • TheRiver March 23, 2018, 7:24 AM

    The car was going less than the speed limit. The pedestrian was clearly at fault. The response time would not have been any different had a human been driving. One thing is not clear is if the high beams were on. They should have been and then it would have been possible perhaps to see the pedestrian in time to stop the car. This is not the fault of self driving cars. I have my doubts about their efficacy but this is not one of their problems.

  • Rob De Witt March 23, 2018, 7:59 AM

    One more vote for “It wasn’t the operator’s fault.”

    Yeah, yeah, convicted felon, “self-driving” car, inattentive operator, yadda yadda.

    Looka here: a homeless junkie WEARING DARK CLOTHING AT NIGHT pushing a bicycle across what looks like a freeway. Darwin candidate all the way around. When the hell did people stop teaching kids that if you’re wearing dark clothing at night, or riding (pushing) a bicycle without lights NOBODY CAN SEE YOU. How the hell can somebody be so fucking stupid they don’t realize this themselves?

    Sweet Jesus, take some responsibility for not getting wiped out, you dumb shits.

  • DrTedNelson March 23, 2018, 9:39 AM

    Thank you, Rob, for being one of the lone voices of sanity. The stupunditry has been overwhelming.

  • Ten March 23, 2018, 11:26 AM

    The three comments above mine have it right. This had nothing to do with the operator – there certainly wasn’t time to “spin the wheel” unless you wanted to take out two humans, a bike, and an automobile – and all this instinctive rightist cultural signalling about the whatever-that-was behind the dash defeats the purpose of the right.

    Oh look. Trump just signed the $1.3T Republican bill funding Planned Infanticide to the tune of half a billion. Citing national security. Good thing we had the tax cut to pay for it.

  • james wilson March 23, 2018, 11:44 AM

    And furthermore, Rob, a live awake driver like myself would always have that crunchy sound invading my mind whereas Uber has no conscience, so win-win.

  • Monty James March 23, 2018, 12:09 PM

    Tempe police report 38 in a 35 mph zone. In most cases I doubt a cop would pull you over for that, not if he was simply eyeballing you. This didn’t occur on a freeway.

    Used the stopwatch app on my phone, and timed from when I saw her tennis shoes until the frame stops when she’s at the bumper. Did it several times, got a shortest time of 0.63 seconds, longest of 0.88. My original estimate of counting “one thousand one” as I watched the exterior camera, yielded a rough time of one second. Neither method is very satisfactory, even using the stopwatch, I know I trained myself to look for the shoes, and knew what was coming. It would have been better to have ten or twenty different people work a timer, once for each one, without knowing what to expect.

    So, lower time to react to 0.5 seconds. Also keep in mind that the image picked up by the CCD in the camera, and recorded and displayed on a screen, is different from what the human brain perceives with eyes adjusted to darkness. Also keep in mind that human eyes adjusted to darkness looking at the road weren’t in play here, but eyes looking down at the screen of a smart phone. I’m just guessing smart phone, it could have been something else.

    It does not look to me as if there were any steering or brake inputs; the car proceeded in the lane and struck the woman without attempting any deceleration or maneuver. There have been no steering or brake inputs reported, though we seem to know the speed of the vehicle with some specificity.

    So a question to ask oneself, would a human driver, given a half second to react, have been on the brakes or trying to change direction? Even if it wouldn’t have done any good and the pedestrian died anyway?

    She might not have taken responsibility for not getting wiped out, but she ended up being held accountable. Uber’s lawyers probably aren’t going to use the “homeless junkie wearing dark clothing at night” defense.

    This isn’t the last time something like this happens. Wait until a driverless big rig creams a Greyhound or school bus. It won’t only be the owners and operators of these things that will be held liable. Plaintiffs are going to go after the state that permits them on the roads in the first place.

  • Eskyman March 23, 2018, 2:09 PM

    I agree with those who said that a human driver could’ve done no better; additionally, the human driver was only there because he/she/ze was required by law to be “overseeing.” It’s hard to imagine a more boring job, and for his/her/xyrs sake I am glad that he/she/zir/they was awake. No wonder Uber hired a transhuman transsexual to oversee a robot car, no actual human being could stand the endless boredom!

    Coincidentally, I watched an old movie from 1975 last night. At one time it was cutting edge, really “out there,” and it caused a lot of controversy. Nowadays, of course, it’s old hat. Schools probably show this film to kindegardeners as part of their “you can be anything, any gender you want!” courses.

    The film I’m talking about is, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Now I’m looking for a mad scientist who can put me through the Time Warp back to 1960- because:

    It’s astounding
    Time is fleeting
    Madness takes its toll…
    But listen closely
    Not for very much longer….

  • SHUFFLEBOARD March 23, 2018, 7:15 PM

    Taking a positive from this episode, perhaps self-driving cars will finally rid society of the scourge of jay-walking moron pedestrians littering our streets and parking lots.
    Doesn’t anyone teach “Cross at the green, not in between” and “Look both ways before crossing” anymore?

  • ghostsniper March 23, 2018, 9:01 PM

    Since there was *something* in front of the car why didn’t it’s sensors go into emergency halt?
    In the setting in the video I believe most good drivers would have been using their high beams and the woman would have been seen earlier and the tragedy averted. But then, maybe this is a method known mostly by us rural drivers that to be ever aware of the deer darting out at the last second.

    Driverless vehicles can happen but they should be using simulators as guinea pigs rather than people. If each person harmed or killed cost Uber $1,000,000.00 they would start to take their mission seriously. The politicians behind this stunt should be dragged.

  • Howard Nelson March 23, 2018, 9:09 PM

    Who’s hallucinating?
    From the video clip and police report above:
    a. 3 seconds pass from time white-shoed pale-face is first visible, until impact.
    b. At 38 mph (police reported) in 3 seconds car travels 167 feet to impact.
    c. Uber sensor package, for 3 seconds, failed to sense and trigger evasive action, and failed to brake before impact. Three (3) f’n seconds!! WTF cubed!!!

    d. The pedestrian is dead. The Uber safety system appears to be poorly designed, engineered, or maintained. Likewise, the pedestrian.
    e. Did the headlights come on suddenly startling the woman (deer caught in headlights)? Any street cameras, or witnesses other than the Uber passenger?

    As the Lone Ranger exclaimed when his parachute failed to open, “It’s a good thing I’m still in my silver mine.”

  • John A. Fleming March 23, 2018, 10:05 PM

    I am familiar with and have experienced many times the appearance of what I call “dark walkers”. People crossing the street just anywhere, in dark clothes, at night, on roads not very well lit. In the States, not so much. Y’all are trained like good little do-be’s to only cross at designated crosswalks, and wait for the light, and don’t cross when the light is flashing. In more libertarian countries, people walk where they damn well please, and it is your responsibility as the driver to not hit them. I’ve told my kids, the 3rd worse thing you can do to another human being is run them over with your car. Second is doing it drunk. First is shooting them.

    You see the dark walkers dimly, and by integrating their movements that you can see, you see them in time, and slow down and otherwise avoid them. Easy-peasy. The very first time you see it, it is a little nerve-wracking. But the anxiety teaches you real quick, slaps you upside the head it does.

    The Tempe cops are idiots. The human eye has a much higher dynamic range than any camera anywhere. For you non-techies, that means that the Mark 1 eyeball is a far better seeing instrument. It can see stuff that no camera can pick up. Which means that the human eye going directly to the human brain would have seen the pedestrian, while the human eye looking at the downsampled filtered cropped camera view does not see it.

    No ordinary competent driver would have whacked the lady.

    My bud Jim taught me a very good analogy. Let’s say some Uber-engineer says something like, “oh, it will only miss the clue 1 time in 500,000”. That’s equivalent to saying, once per year, Uber gets to walk into a football stadium in every city and shoot a spectator. (Oh, ok, that was before the NFL shit on all their fans, but you get the point).

  • Cactusjuice March 24, 2018, 1:47 AM

    You can talk all day about what the safety driver should have done. You can say it’s the pedestrian fault for being in the middle of the road at night. Ok, here’s my problem. The car’s solution to an obstruction in the road is to run over it. Not to stop if it can’t decide what the obstruction is, just run over it. The woman is in the road pushing her bicycle across the road, and the car’s decision is to run her over. This is a state of the art autonomous vehicle. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent to develop this car. Hundreds of designers, programmers, engineers, technicians, and builders have spent decades to put this car on the road. All that and the car can’t keep from runing over an old lady. So the car saw her and didn’t stop or it didn’t see her. The car is either stupid or nearsighted. Who decided this car was roadworthy?

  • brio March 24, 2018, 2:43 PM

    I live in Tempe, AZ. It would never dawn on me to use high beams on that stretch of road. This is a regular city street, not out in the sticks. That length of Mill Avenue is just past the Tempe Town Lake and a freeway overpass. Mill Avenue is a busy street in Tempe, but at 10 at night, obviously the traffic is lighter.

    The thing that surprises me about this incident is that the pedestrian either didn’t see or ignored the oncoming lights of the car. I keep reading about a rise in the road, but it is slight and visibility is not hindered by either a driver or a pedestrian. It just looks like another example of an impatient pedestrian trying to cross a street before waiting for traffic to clear. What urgent need did this person have, not to wait for a car? There are no businesses or public activities in that location. It is a transition area between the Tempe Town Lake and nearby parks. She may have been making her way to a desert park near the SEC closest to the intersection where this happened–maybe to hang out with people or to sleep. But I recall that the park is closed late at night because it is/was a notorious gay cruising area.

  • ghostsniper March 26, 2018, 4:48 AM

    “…notorious gay cruising area.”
    Leather G-strings, police batons, pr0n ‘stache’s, bulldaggers, reach arounds on demand.