Tempe and Chandler have become the latest hot spots in a tech trend that aims to change commutes across the globe: self-driving cars.
The driver of a Honda CRV made a left turn Friday night in Tempe even though she could only see two of the three lanes of approaching traffic clearly. In the third lane was a self-driving Volvo run by Uber, which the Honda struck as it entered the intersection, according to a Tempe police report.
The city of Tempe released the accident report on Wednesday for the collision at Don Carlos Avenue and McClintock Drive that prompted Uber to shut down its autonomous vehicle ride-hailing program in Tempe, San Francisco and Pittsburgh for the weekend. Service resumed Monday, according to the company.
Uber officials said they temporarily stopped the service to investigate the accident and determine if their equipment was operating properly. No one was seriously hurt. The test program had been operating in Arizona since late December.
The woman driving the Honda, identified as Alexandra Cole, was cited for failing to yield the right of way, according to Tempe police. The Uber vehicle driver, Patrick Murphy, was not cited.
An Uber autonomous SUV was involved in a three-vehicle collision in Tempe on March 24, 2017.
Cole was heading northbound, turning left from McClintock onto Don Carlos. The two southbound lanes closest to her were stopped with gridlock traffic, so she turned in front of the stopped cars. The third lane, closest to the curb, was not stopped, though.
“The light was green and there were about five seconds left on the crosswalk timer,” Cole wrote in the collision description. “As far as I could tell, the third lane had no one coming in it so I was clear to make my turn. Right as I got to the middle lane about to cross the third I saw a car flying through the intersection but couldn’t brake fast enough to completely avoid collision.”
She hit the Uber vehicle, which hit a light pole, rolled onto its side, and bumped two of the cars stopped in traffic on the far side of the intersection.
“There was no time to react as there was a blind spot created by the line of traffic in the southbound left lane on McClintock,” Murphy wrote in his collision description. He said he entered the intersection as the light turned yellow.
He was traveling with another Uber employee and had no customers aboard. The company confirmed the vehicle was in autonomous mode at the time of the accident.
His estimated speed was 38 mph. The limit on the road is 40. Cole estimated her speed during the crash at 20 mph.
Two witnesses stopped in traffic gave differing accounts to police. Francis Reilly said Cole’s vehicle struck the Uber. Brayan Torres said Cole “was good” and that it was the Uber vehicle’s “fault for trying to beat the light and hitting the gas so hard.”
Uber provided a statement that its vehicle was not accelerating due to the light turning yellow as suggested by the witness statement.
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