Self-driving Ubers on hold after pedestrian death

Andrew Cummings
March 20, 2018

Uber's testing was halted after police in a Phoenix suburb said one of its self-driving vehicles struck and killed a pedestrian overnight on Sunday.

Note here, that the Uber vehicle had a human safety driver at the wheel, in order to shut down the self-driving mode in case of an emergency.

Tempe police tell the Phoenix New Times the gray 2017 Volvo XC 90 was not speeding when it struck 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, who was crossing a street with her bicycle. The woman later died from her injuries in a hospital, police said.

The ride services company said it was suspending North American tests of its self-driving vehicles, which are now going on in Arizona, Pittsburgh and Toronto.

However, Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir believes that it would have been hard to avoid this collision in any kind of mode (autonomous or human-driven) because of the pedestrian came right on the highway out of nowhere instantly. Our prayers are with the victim, and our hearts go out to her family.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said they will investigate. It is also worth mentioning here that this is the first time a person has been killed with regards to an autonomous driving vehicle.

USA lawmakers have been debating legislation that would speed introduction of self-driving cars.

Last year, a Tesla driver died while driving his vehicle in auto mode. The accident will also make the companies revisit their strategy on testing of self-driving cars. Reports say it is the first death associated with self-driving technology, at least in the context of ride-hailing services, for which Uber plans to use its self-driving cars.

However, the move towards human-less vehicles has hit its first major roadblock now as a woman has died in the U.S. after being hit by an autonomous Uber auto.

Past year an estimated 40,100 people died in traffic accidents.

"People are going to be aware of this tragedy and this death, even if they are unaware of the hundreds of other people who died in motor crashes today", said Smith. California regulators ordered Uber to stop its newly launched self-driving auto service in San Francisco until it gets a state permit. "We should be terrified about human driving".

Tesla's Autopilot is considered a Level 2 system, and getting to Level 4 is a long road ahead. Arizona has no reporting requirements.

The US Department of Transportation is considering other voluntary guidelines that it says will help encourage innovation. Some of these companies, like Uber, have begun testing their vehicles around the country. However, tragic incidents like these are a potential threat to the development of autonomous vehicle industry. That letter was planned before the crash.

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