First Pedestrian Fatality with a Self Driving Uber Under Federal Investigation

Driverless Uber taxi in Pittsburgh.
Image: Flickr

A pedestrian fatality that occurred in Tempe, Arizona, after collision with a self driving Uber is under investigation by the NTSB.

Tempe, Arizona, Police Chief Sylvia Moir told the San Francisco Chronicle that “it would have been difficult to avoid this collision in any kind of mode (autonomous or human-driven) based on how” Elaine Herzberg, 49, stepped of a center median into the roadway Sunday night in front of a self-driving Uber, a Volvo SUV.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating this first pedestrian fatality involving a self-driving car.


The Phoenix region is hosting many self driving car tests, including Waymo, and there was a back-up driver in the Uber vehicle at the time of the collision.

The NTSB arrived yesterday in Tempe and released the following update:

The investigation will address the operating condition of the vehicle, driver interaction with the vehicle and opportunities for the vehicle or driver to detect of the pedestrian. Developments on Tuesday include:

  • Meeting with representatives of Uber, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Tempe Police Department
  • Beginning examination of the accident vehicle, a Volvo XC90
  • Beginning examination of the accident site
  • Viewing a copy of a video that captured the crash from an aftermarket dash camera mounted in the test vehicle
  • Gathering information about the technology on the test vehicle
  • Collecting information about the pedestrian and the safety driver
  • Beginning collection of any and all electronic data stored on the test vehicle or transmitted to Uber

The NTSB investigative team will be in the Tempe area for the remainder of the week.

NTSB also noted in its update that any findings or determination of probable cause of the crash will come only after the investigation and analysis are completed.

Moir said she “won’t rule out the potential to file charges against the (backup driver) in the Uber vehicle.”

Read our previous coverage on risks associated with self driving cars:

Self Driving Cars Expected to Migrate Risks from Drivers to Manufacturers, Cities

Truck Backs Into Las Vegas Self-Driving Shuttle on Day 1

About the author

Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox is Editor of and Senior Editor at Praetorian Digital. She is based in Massachusetts.