Friday, March 30, 2018

Uber has settled with the family of the homeless victim killed last week

Uber has reportedly come to a fast settlement with the family of 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, who was fatally struck last week by one of the company’s self-driving vehicles as she crossed a darkened street, pushing a bicycle.

Terms of the settlement are not being disclosed; Uber declined to comment when we asked the company for further information.

The move helps Uber avoid what could have been an ugly civil case against it, even while it isn’t clear how big or sophisticated a support system Herzberg had.

Reuters reported last week that Herzberg was homeless and close to getting off the streets, with friends describing her as someone who took care of those around her. She was reportedly known in the homeless community as “Elle” and “Ms. Elle.”

She did have a daughter and was apparently married. Indeed, according to a separate Reuters report, the Glendale, Arizona attorney who represented Herzberg’s family — it’s worth noting that she typically focuses on bankruptcy and debt negotiation — told the outlet “the matter has been resolved” between Uber and Herzberg’s daughter and husband.

No further information about them was disclosed.

Presumably, the case was settled at a high cost to the company, but could have been higher had it dragged out. Personal injury lawsuits typically arrive at a settlement amount after both sides determine on their own what they think a case is worth; typically, that amount is reached by reviewing similar cases and seeing what juries have awarded past victims.

Given the unique circumstances of this case — Herzberg was the first person to be killed by a self-driving car — and given Uber’s unprecedentedly high private market value of $72 billion, determining the amount would be particularly tricky.

Uber is still facing fallout from all corners over last week’s incident, including, potentially, criminal charges. The Tempe Police Vehicular Crimes Unit is actively investigating the details of last week’s incident.

Uber also announced it wouldn’t reapply to test its self-driving technology on public roads in California in the wake of the accident, meaning that as of next week, after its current permit expires, it won’t be able to operate its self-driving cars on that state’s public roads.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey separately suspended the company’s right to operate autonomous cars on public roads in Arizona on Monday night, though emails have since surfaced that suggest Ducey himself enabled the program with limited oversight.

Pictured above: the type of vehicle that struck Herzberg.