MADISON, Wis. — EE Times has obtained from the Tempe (Ariz.) Police Department the report of a traffic collision involving an Uber vehicle on March 24.
The full report tells a story different from earlier, sketchy accounts of the crash. It also reveals details that might prompt more questions about Uber’s actions — or inaction — at the intersection where the accident occurred.
EE Times got the help of Mike Demler, senior analyst at The Linley Group, to decipher the police report.
Before getting into detail, here’s a recap what we reported before:
Until police info became public, the prevailing press narrative, including this publication, was that the crash resulted when the driver of a second vehicle “failed to yield” to the Uber car while making a left turn.
Observers were quick to conclude that this was an accident caused by a reckless “human” driver. Uber — which was in self-driving mode — was not at fault.
Intersection of South McClintock Dr. and East Don Carlos Ave. where the Uber accident took place on March 24, 2017
When we put together statements by drivers and an eyewitness included in the police report, we begin to see a different picture.
First, the driver who hit Uber’s Volvo was in the intersection waiting to turn left and was therefore moving slowly. She wasn’t exactly making a sudden, reckless move.
Second, Uber’s Volvo, in self-driving mode, was moving at 38 mph in a 40 mph zone and failed to detect the left-turning vehicle. Further, although the Uber’s driver remembers the traffic light changing to yellow when his car entered the intersection, the Uber Volvo didn’t react, neither hurrying nor hesitating.
Fortunately, nobody got hurt. After a dormant weekend, Uber announced that the company has resumed its driverless pilot project, picking up passengers both in Tempe and Pittsburgh.
Uber, originally quick to announce its decision to “ground” its driverless vehicles after the crash, has since fallen silent. The company has ceased all comment about the accident. An Uber spokesperson told us via email, “What I've shared to date is all we are sharing on our findings.” She referred to Tempe Police Department for any more information on the incident.
So, to understand what really happened, and what — if anything — we can learn from this crash, we turned to the Police Report, provided to us by Detective Lily Duran, Media Relations Unit, at Tempe Police Department.
Next page: Crash diagram