ASU assistant professor studies how to make self-driving cars safer

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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

The fatal crash of a self-driving Uber this weekend has led to a lot of controversy about those cars.

[RELATED: Uber self-driving car kills pedestrian in first fatal autonomous crash]

[RELATED: Tempe PD releases video of moments before self-driving Uber hit, killed pedestrian]

We talked to an expert for whom this story hits close to home.

Ashraf Gaffar is an ASU assistant professor who specializes in artificial intelligence that can improve the driving of human drivers and autonomous vehicles.

he says his daughter was involved in a serious crash.

"It's a tragedy that somebody lost their life," he said.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Self-driving Uber hits, kills pedestrian]

In a small lab on ASU's East Valley campus, Gaffar, like many, is closely following the story of the autonomous Uber that struck and killed pedestrian Elaine Herzberg Sunday.

"There are accidents that are impossible to avoid," he said.

But for the last seven years, Gaffar dedicated his life to making driving safer... developing artificial intelligence technology that could improve the functioning and safety of vehicles operated by people, as well as vehicles that are self-driving.

[RELATED: Pedestrian killed by self-driving Uber vehicle in Arizona]

"We are not just building another autonomous vehicle," said Gaffar. "We are having a higher level of observation, which looks at your performance and looks for ways of warning you, or taking corrective action if needed."

It's a project Gaffar is clearly passionate about, a passion that became even stronger three years ago when his daughter was struck and seriously injured by a distracted driver in Canada.

"I got a lot more focused to save some lives," Gaffar said.

Fortunately, Gaffar's daughter recovered and is doing well. But he says it certainly motivated him in his research to make things safer on the roads.
 

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