Are driverless cars safe? Uber fatality raises questions.

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[Reading level: C1 – Advanced]

After a woman is killed by a self-driving car in Arizona, police investigate whether a human or the car was at fault.

 

Sunday marked a turning point for self-driving cars. For the first time, a car in full autonomous mode struck and killed a pedestrian.

 

It happened at 10 p.m. in Tempe, Arizona, where ride-hailing company Uber had been picking up passengers in autonomous vehicles for more than a year.

 

Elaine Herzberg, 49, was walking her bicycle down a four-lane road and was starting to cross when the gray Volvo, operated by Uber, hit her at about 40 mph, according to local police. It’s believed Herzberg was homeless. She was pronounced dead by the time she reached the hospital.

 

Although the car was driving itself, Uber vehicle operator Rafaela Vasquez, 44, was behind the wheel.

 

“Our investigation did not show at this time that there were significant signs of the vehicle slowing down,” Tempe Police Sgt. Roland Elcock said in a press conference Monday. The police are “going to attempt to find who was at fault and how we can better be safe,” he added.

 

The Tempe police on Wednesday released a video of the collision. It shows footage of Herzberg crossing the road outside the vehicle and of Vasquez at the moment of impact. It’s graphic and difficult to watch.

 

“The video is disturbing and heartbreaking to watch, and our thoughts continue to be with Elaine’s loved ones,” an Uber spokeswoman said in an emailed statement Wednesday. “Our cars remain grounded, and we’re assisting local, state and federal authorities in any way we can.”

 

Almost every automaker in the world — including General Motors, BMW, Ford, Tesla Motors and Toyota — has plans to offer self-driving cars in the next few years. Several Silicon Valley giants such as Intel and Google have invested years in developing the technologies as well. The promise: greater safety, since such vehicles use software and sensors that let them “see” and react to their surroundings supposedly faster than humans can.

 

Earlier this month, Uber also began regular operation of self-driving trucks hauling cargo in Arizona, after it wrapped up its testing period. The trucks always have a safety operator who’s a licensed truck driver.

 

For the most part, testing of the technology has shown the cars to be safe. But autonomous technology is still a work in progress. The vast majority of car tests haven’t been done on public roads, and the cars are still learning how to drive. Sunday’s fatality has some people questioning if the cars belong on public roads at all.

 

“This is their vehicle, they put it on the road, and they’re responsible for making sure it’s safe,” said consumer attorney Neama Rahmani, who isn’t involved with any of the legal proceedings regarding the accident. “Uber needs to not implement any of this until it’s fully vetted and tested and 100 percent safe.”

 

Safety first  – An toàn là trên hết

This wasn’t the first time a self-driving car has been involved in a collision.

 

Google reported an accident with one of its cars in March 2016, and there have been at least three crashes involving Teslas in autopilot mode, one of which was fatal — though Tesla warns owners that autopilot isn’t fully autonomous. One of Uber’s vehicles was involved in another crash in Tempe last year, but no serious injuries were reported. And just last week, an Uber self-driving car in Pittsburgh was in a collision with another car.

 

Uber’s cars have also had some other near misses in Pittsburgh, including reports of fender-benders going the wrong way down one-way streets and ignoring traffic signals, according to Quartz. No injuries have been reported.

 

Within hours of Uber launching its autonomous vehicles in San Francisco in December 2016, one ran a red light. A dashboard camera video of the incident, captured by a Luxor Cab taxi, shows a self-driving Volvo SUV zooming through the light long after it turned red and coming uncomfortably close to a pedestrian.

 

“Sadly, this is a reminder of the risk that comes with rushing to get more and more self-driving cars on public roads before we know they are safe,” said David Friedman, director of cars for Consumers Union, which is the advocacy division of Consumer Reports. “The promise of self-driving cars is that they can avoid fatalities, but this tragedy makes clear they have a long way to go.”

 

What now? – Bây giờ thì sao?

After Sunday’s fatality, some regulators are starting to question whether driverless cars are ready for public roads. Both the National Transportation Safety Board and the US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration confirmed they’ve sent teams to Tempe to investigate the collision alongside the local police department.

 

“The investigation will address the vehicle’s interaction with the environment, other vehicles and vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and bicyclists,” the National Transportation Safety Board said in a statement.

 

Source: https://www.cnet.com/news/uber-self-driving-car-fatality-in-arizona-has-people-asking-how-safe-are-driverless-cars/

WORD BANK:

driverless car / self-driving car (n): ô tô tư lái

turning point (n): bước ngoặt

full autonomous mode (n) chế độ lái hoàn toàn tự động

pedestrian [B1] (n): người đi đường

ride-hailing (n/adj): chỉ việc gọi xe hợp đồng

pronounce (v): thông báo điều gì chính thức, chắc chắn

press conference (n): cuộc họp báo

attempt to [B1] (v): nỗ lực làm gì

(be) at fault (for/in + doing sth) [B2] (adj): có lỗi trong việc gì

release [B2] (v): phát hành, đưa ra

collision (n): vụ va chạm

footage (n): hình ảnh

haul [C2] (v): chỉ hành động kéo vật nặng phía sau

wrap up a test period (v): kết thúc 1 giai đoạn thử nghiệm

autonomous technology (n): công nghệ tự động

a work in progress (n): một nghiên cứu đang trong quá trình phát triển

the vast majority of (quant): đa số

heartbreaking (adj) đau lòng

remain (v): vẫn còn

grounded (adj): bị cấm hoạt động (tạm thời)

automaker (n): nhà sản xuất ô tô

attorney [C1]: luật sư

implement [B2]: tiến hành

vet (v): kiểm tra kỹ lưỡng

fender-bender (n): vụ va quệt giao thông (thiệt hại nhỏ)

rush to do sth (v): vội vàng làm gì

advocacy division (n): đơn vị tư vấn

regulator (n): nhà làm luật, nhà quản lý

(be) vulnerable (to) (adj): dễ bị tổn thương bởi cái gì