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Police: Uber car 'likely not at fault' for killing pedestrian

by Justin King

Despite the preliminary declaration, media reports have quickly ramped up contradictory sensational headlines.

The driver of an autonomous Uber vehicle that killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona, is unlikely to face blame for the accident, according to local police.

The self-driving Volvo XC90 prototype struck 49-year-old Elane Herzberg on Sunday night as she was crossing the street outside a crosswalk. The car was traveling at 38 mph in the 35 mph zone and did not appear to begin to brake, nor did the human driver take over manual control to avoid the accident.

"The driver said it was like a flash, the person walked out in front of them," Tempe police chief Sylvia Moir told the San Francisco Chronicle. "It's very clear it would have been difficult to avoid this collision in any kind of mode (autonomous or human-driven) based on how she came from the shadows right into the roadway."

Based on footage recorded by the vehicle, Moir said "it appears Uber would likely not be at fault" though the police department is not making a final declaration until its investigation is complete.

Despite the police chief's preliminary statement suggesting the accident was unavoidable and apparently the fault of the victim, the death has ignited a frenzy of sensational headlines. Some media oulets have quickly framed the death as evidence that all autonomous cars are unsafe, Uber is reckless and the state of Arizona has created a lawless haven for testing deadly technology on public streets.

The National Transportation Safety Board has dispatched a team to investigate the incident. The agency will likely take several months to review evidence before issuing a report.