Uber self-driving crash ‘mostly caused by human error’

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A distracted safety operator in an Uber self-driving car was primarily to blame for a fatal crash in 2018, a US regulator has ruled.

“Had the vehicle operator been attentive, she would likely have had sufficient time to detect and react to the crossing pedestrian to avoid the crash or mitigate the impact,” the NTSB ruled.

Uber’s computers detected Ms Herzberg 5.6 seconds before impact, the NTSB said, but did not correctly identify her as a person.

NTSB diagram
The NTSB mapped the incident – yellow rings show metres ahead of the vehicle, orange lines centre of mapped travel and purple area the car’s path

The report said Ms Herzberg was acting unsafely in attempting to cross the road where she did – investigators said toxicology reports suggested she had taken drugs that may have impaired her judgement.

Nevertheless, the NTSB said Uber had an “inadequate safety culture, exhibited by a lack of risk assessment mechanisms, of oversight of vehicle operators, and of personnel with backgrounds in safety management”.

It acknowledged on Tuesday that the company had made significant changes since the accident.

Uber said it welcomed the recommendations.

“We deeply regret the March 2018 crash that resulted in the loss of Elaine Herzberg’s life, and we remain committed to improving the safety of our self-driving program,” said Nat Beuse, head of safety at Uber’s advanced technologies group.

“Over the last 20 months, we have provided the NTSB with complete access to information about our technology and the developments we have made since the crash. While we are proud of our progress, we will never lose sight of what brought us here or our responsibility to continue raising the bar on safety.”

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Former Audi boss charged in VW dieselgate scandal

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Rupert Stadler

Rupert Stadler was arrested last year

German authorities have charged the former boss of Audi with fraud as part of an investigation into the VW emissions-cheating scandal.

Rupert Stadler is also accused of false certification and criminal advertising practices.

Prosecutors claim he knew that hundreds of thousands of Audi, Porsche and VW cars contained software designed to cheat pollution tests, yet turned a blind eye.

Mr Stadler has denied wrongdoing.

The VW dieselagate scandal erupted in September 2015 when it emerged VW had installed so-called “cheat devices” in 600,000 vehicles sold in the US and millions more globally.

Since then the carmaker, which owns Audi and Porsche, has had to set aside around $30bn to cover fines and settlements.

Former VW boss Martin Winterkorn also has been charged with fraud, while many others remain under investigation.

On Wednesday, the public prosecutor’s office in Munich said that Mr Stadler faced charges over the affair along with three other defendants who were not named.

‘Aware of manipulations’

The prosecutor said his indictment related to roughly 250,000 Audi-branded cars, 112,000 Porsches and 72,000 Volkswagen cars that were sold in the US and Europe.

“Defendant Stadler is accused of having been aware of the manipulations since the end of September 2015 at the latest, but he did not prevent the sale of affected Audi and VW vehicles thereafter,” the prosecutor said.

“Vehicles with the engines concerned were subsequently sold in large numbers and placed on the market.”

Mr Stadler was arrested last June and spent time in custody as part of a wider probe into emissions cheating at Audi. Volkswagen later ended his contract citing the criminal investigation.

On Wednesday, Audi said it was in the interest of the company, its shareholders and employees to clarify the issues that led to the diesel crisis.

But it added: “Until this has happened, the presumption of innocence must prevail.”