The Uber after the crash
Uber suspended all tests of its self-driving cars this week after one of its autonomous vehicles struck and killed a woman in Tempe—marking the first known pedestrian fatality from a driverless vehicle. A preliminary investigation seemed to indicate that the Uber car wasn’t at fault, said Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir. The Volvo SUV, which had an emergency backup driver behind the wheel, was traveling down a dimly lit road in autonomous mode when Elaine Herzberg, 49—who police believe may have been homeless—allegedly stepped suddenly into the road and tried to cross outside a designated crosswalk. “The driver said it was like a flash, the person walked out in front of them,” said Moir. “It’s very clear it would have been difficult to avoid this collision in any kind of mode.” Police added that the vehicle was traveling at 38 mph in a 45 mph zone and made no attempt to brake.
President Trump personally waded into the Stormy Daniels scandal for the first time last week, filing court papers accusing the porn star of violating a hush agreement about an alleged affair in 2006 and saying she owes him $20 million in damages. Daniels, 39, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, has sued to be released from the agreement and has recorded an interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes. Her lawyer claims Clifford “was physically threatened to stay silent” about Trump, and that six additional women have come forward alleging relationships with the president. Former Playboy model Karen McDougal this week sued to be released from her own “catch and kill” agreement with the parent company of the Trump-friendly National Enquirer, which she claims paid her $150,000 for rights to her story about an alleged affair with Trump and then buried the story.
Great Mills, Md.
A parent and student
A Maryland student shot and injured a fellow classmate at Great Mills High School this week before being confronted by an armed school resource officer who helped stop the shooting. Austin Wyatt Rollins, 17, opened fire with a Glock 9 mm handgun days after his classmates participated in a nationwide school walkout to protest gun violence. He targeted a 16-year-old female student with whom he’d had a prior relationship, said police, leaving her with life-threatening injuries. Within less than a minute, Deputy First Class Blaine Gaskill confronted the shooter, firing a round as Rollins fired back. Rollins was injured and later pronounced dead—though police said it wasn’t clear whether Gaskill’s shot had hit the gunman, or which of the two was responsible for shooting another male student, age 14, who was transported to the hospital in stable condition.
Six people were killed last week when a newly installed pedestrian bridge collapsed at Florida International University in Miami, sending a 950-ton mass of concrete and metal crashing onto cars below. The “rapid-build” project, scheduled to open in 2019, was assembled in a matter of hours on the weekend before its collapse, using “accelerated bridge construction” techniques. The 174-foot main span was built off-site and then “swung” into place; in the days after, workers performed stress tests and tightened structural cables as traffic streamed below. Footage seemed to indicate that the bridge collapsed first at the north end—near where cracking had been spotted by a design engineer employed by project manager FIGG Bridge Group earlier that week. The engineer left a voicemail warning with Florida’s Department of Transportation, but his message wasn’t picked up until a day after the bridge collapsed.
Package-bomb suspect dead
The three-week manhunt for a suspected serial bomber who terrorized the city of Austin with a wave of exploding packages came to a dramatic end this week, after the suspect detonated an explosive device in his vehicle as police closed in. Mark Anthony Conditt, a 23-year-old white man from nearby Pflugerville, is believed to be responsible for at least six bombs dating back to March 2. Two people, both of them African-American, died and two people were injured after opening packages left on their doorsteps; two white men were later injured in a predominantly white area when they triggered a device by trip wire. Two other packages were discovered at separate Fed Ex sorting centers, one near Austin and one near San Antonio. One device detonated, while one was recovered unexploded.
With the city on edge, police frantically searched for clues for the bombings, which they initially said may have been racially motivated. Using surveillance footage from one of the FedEx facilities, they tracked the suspect to a hotel in Round Rock, north of Austin, but as they waited on tactical units, Conditt’s vehicle left. When the car drove into a ditch, a SWAT team approached and Conditt detonated a bomb, killing himself and injuring a SWAT officer. “The biggest mistake the guy made was going to FedEx,” a law enforcement official said. Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said he didn’t yet “understand what motivated [Conditt] to do what he did” and warned residents that he may have left other devices. “We don’t know where this suspect has spent his last 24 hours. We still need to remain vigilant.” ■