Self-driving Uber That Killed Woman May Not Have Been Responsible for Fatal Crash, Police Say

A self-driving Uber vehicle that struck and killed a woman in Arizona this week might not have been at fault for the collision.

The police chief in Tempe, where the crash took place, said that even a human driver would have had trouble avoiding the pedestrian late on Sunday night, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Elaine Herzberg, 49, was reportedly walking across the roadway, outside of a crosswalk, and pushing a bicycle when the Uber, a Volvo SUV, crashed into her. She later died at the hospital.

It was the first time a pedestrian died in connection with a self-driving car.

Although the car was in its autonomous mode, there was a driver behind the wheel.

Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir viewed video footage from cameras attached to the car that were looking both at the street and at the driver during the incident.

"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," Moir told the San Francisco Chronicle. "The driver said it was like a flash, the person walked out in front of them. … It is dangerous to cross roadways in the evening hour when well-illuminated, managed crosswalks are available."

Moir reportedly said she did not think Uber would be found at fault for the crash.

The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the incident.

"The investigation will address the vehicle's interaction with the environment, other vehicles and vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and bicyclists," the NTSB said in a statement. The staffers involved in the probe "will examine vehicle factors, human performance and electronic recorders."

Preliminary police information suggests the car was moving around 40 miles per hour and did not brake in the moments immediately before the crash.

Uber has suspended testing of its self-driving cars in North America following the accident.

This intersection in Tempe, Arizona, is just north of where a woman was struck and killed by a self-driving Uber, a Volvo SUV. Rick Scuteri/Reuters