Friday, January 25, 2019

UPDATE: Shutdown Impacted Ongoing NTSB Investigation Into Last Year's Self-Driving Uber Fatality, 2 Arizona Fatal Air Accidents

Last year's Grand Canyon helicopter accident - killing 3 - the self-driving Uber vehicle that killed a pedestrian, and a fatal air accident near Kingman two weeks ago. Investigations into all were delayed or damaged by the now-ending government shutdown.
(from Tempe Police via New Times)

The federal government shutdown is finally ending, but the impacts are still being discovered. The NTSB's Dolline Hatchett tells Arizona's Politics that the ongoing investigations into last year's news-making accidents were halted when 367 of the National Transportation Safety Board's 397 employees were furloughed. The aircraft accident near Kingman on January 13, in which one person was killed and one seriously injured, has not yet been investigated.

Politico's Brianna Gurciullo reported the problems that have been caused nationally - and, even internationally - to the NTSB's valuable work.

Hatchett, the Acting Director of the NTSB's Office of Safety Recommendations and Communications, confirmed to Arizona's Politics that the March 2018 killing of pedestrian Elaine Herzberg by the Uber autonomous driving vehicle is still being investigated and that the shutdown caused it to be halted. She declined to say how close they are to releasing a final report or when the investigation may be closed.

As the Phoenix New Times' Ray Stern reported, the NTSB did release a preliminary report in the incident, finding that "Uber put all the responsibility for emergency braking on its backup drivers." The final report may include more information and conclusions that could impact how Arizona and other states (and maybe the federal government) will oversee autonomous vehicle testing.

The Grand Canyon helicopter crash on February 10 of last year is also still under investigation, and may also yield important information.

For this month's Kingman accident (and others that occurred during the shutdown), delays in beginning an investigation can be particularly damaging because memories and physical evidence will have deteriorated, a former NTSB chair told Politico.

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