It’s believed to be the first ever pedestrian death involving a self-driving vehicle.
Uber Technologies Inc. has been a big name in the transportation industry for a while. Their revolutionizing of ride sharing put pressure on public taxi monopolies, and their Uber Freight app has done a lot to connect the fragmented truck driving industry throughout the United States.
The company took a bold step into the future when they announced they’d be testing out self-driving vehicles. Arizona was the destination for their trial runs, but an unfortunate situation with one of their autonomous cars has led the company to halt tests for the time being.
Late on March 18 in Tempe, Arizona, a woman was struck by an Uber vehicle in autonomous mode while she was attempting to cross the street. The woman sustained severe injuries and was transported to a local hospital, where she sadly passed away soon after.
The accident is being investigated by both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.
While it was operating in autonomous mode, the vehicle did have a human driver on board. Most self-driving vehicles these days do have such a setup, allowing human drivers to handle some of the trip while letting the self-driving kit handle the rest.
Due to the tragedy, Uber decided to temporarily halt the testing of autonomous vehicles on public roads. They did note that they didn’t want to speculate on what caused the tragedy or what it could mean for autonomous vehicles moving forward.
Uber had another accident almost exactly one year ago on March 24. One of their self-driving cars was struck by a motorist, causing the Uber vehicle to flip onto its side. Tesla, another major player in the self-driving race, saw one of their cars using an autopilot mode plow into a firetruck in January of this year. While there were no injuries, the same can’t be said of the 2016 autopilot Tesla crash which claimed the life of a driver after he took his hands off the wheel for a short time.
Then there’s the Keolis shuttle in Las Vegas, which famously got into an accident on its first day of service. However, the police report stated the vehicle didn’t crash and was instead crashed into. The human driver who scraped it was the one at fault, with some saying the crash could’ve been avoided if the driver had the same sensors on his vehicle as the autonomous shuttle.
Even Waymo, the self-driving company under Google’s banner, has seen their vehicles cause crashes. In 2016, a driver hit a bus after assuming his vehicle would stop. It didn’t – but luckily, the accident occurred at low speeds and no one was hurt.
Driverless vehicles are already labeled as a somewhat dangerous technology by many, and this type of press certainly won’t help their cause. It is uncertain what industry or legal regulations may be developed to prevent these accidents from occurring in the future.