Future Tense

Video From the Fatal Uber Self-Driving Car Crash Has Been Released

On Wednesday afternoon, police in Tempe, Arizona, released footage from the crash on Sunday in which a self-driving Uber hit and killed a woman crossing a street in the dark. The victim, Elaine Herzberg, is the first pedestrian to be killed by an autonomous vehicle.

The video comes from two cameras. One shows the roadway in front of the car, which is followed by footage showing the supervising driver. The video ends just before the collision, but some viewers may find it disturbing.

The crash is still under investigation, but the footage does appear to demonstrate what Tempe police told reporters earlier this week: The pattern of shadows on the road makes it very difficult to see the woman crossing the street.

It also shows that the supervising driver had her eyes turned downward in the moments before the crash.* Her role will be scrutinized, although in Arizona it is legal for autonomous vehicles to drive without a supervisor ready to take the wheel. Herzberg does not appear to see the car coming at all.

The takeaway is that autonomous vehicles are not yet, at least, any better at perceiving a pedestrian crossing the road in the dark than human drivers—and may even be worse.

Correction, March 22, 2018: Based on early, incorrect statements by the Tempe police chief, this post initially misidentified the supervising driver as a man. She was a woman.

Henry Grabar is a staff writer for Slate’s Moneybox.