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Uber Division's 'inadequate Safety Culture' Caused Vehicle Crash: NTSB

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The National Transportation Safety Board urged federal regulators to create a review process before allowing companies to test autonomous vehicles on public roads.

NTSB made the call in a board meeting to discuss the results of its investigation of a fatal collision between an Uber automated test vehicle and a pedestrian in March last year in Tempe, Arizona.

NTSB said an Uber Technologies Inc. division's "inadequate safety culture" contributed to the accident in which Elaine Herzberg died after an Uber-owned self-driving car - operating in autonomous mode - struck her as she crossed the road at night.

The vehicle operator, who the investigators said had been streaming a TV show on her mobile phone while behind the wheel, was not injured in the crash.

An Uber ATG operator was in the driver's seat, but the automated system was controlling the Volvo SUV when it struck the pedestrian at 39 mph.

The NTSB determined that the immediate cause of the collision was the failure of the safety driver to closely monitor the road and the operation of the automated driving system because the operator was visually distracted throughout the trip by her cell phone.

Uber's Advanced Technologies Group had modified the striking vehicle, a 2017 Volvo XC90, with a proprietary developmental automated driving system. The vehicle's factory-installed forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking systems were deactivated during the operation of the automated system.

"Contributing to the crash was Uber ATG's inadequate safety risk assessment procedures, ineffective oversight of the vehicle operators and a lack of adequate mechanisms for addressing operators' automation complacency - all consequences of the division's inadequate safety culture," NTSB said in a press release.

The agency also blamed the Arizona Department of Transportation's insufficient oversight of automated vehicle testing for the accident.

While Uber ATG managers had the ability to retroactively monitor the behavior of vehicle operators, they rarely did so, NTSB said in the investigation's findings.

"The company's ineffective oversight was exacerbated by its decision to remove a second operator from the vehicle during testing of the automated driving system".

It has been noted that Uber ATG made several changes to address the deficiencies identified, including implementation of a safety management system.

On the basos of the findings, NTSB issued six recommendations to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the state of Arizona, the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators and Uber ATG.

NTSB recommended that NHTSA must require companies planning to test a developmental automated driving system on public roads to submit safety self-assessment plans, which should be reviewed to ensure they include appropriate safeguards.

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