Uber Self-Driving Car Strikes, Kills Pedestrian In Arizona
By Cliff Pinckard, CLEVELAND.COM [email protected]
March 20, 2018
TEMPE, Arizona — An Uber self-driving car struck and killed a pedestrian Sunday night, leading the company to pull all its autonomous cars from service, according to reports.
According to Reuters, the accident is believed to be the first fatality involving a fully autonomous vehicle and comes as the industry was pushing lawmakers for regulatory clearance, with hopes of offering self-driving ride services as soon as next year.
The incident also could lead to criminal charges against Uber, Fox News reports.
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.
However, police tell CNN the vehicle did not show significant signs of slowing before hitting Herzberg. Reports also say Herzberg was not in a crosswalk when she was struck.
“The vehicle involved is one of Uber’s self-driving vehicles,” Tempe police said in a statement. “It was in autonomous mode at the time of the collision, with a vehicle operator behind the wheel.”
Test driver Rafael Vasquez, 44, was in the driver’s seat when the incident occurred. The New Times reports he has no record of traffic or other offenses in Arizona.
Reuters reports Sunday’s the reaction of the public and legislators to the incident is a test for the autonomous vehicle industry. Officials in the business have said there could still be accidents and fatalities involving self-driving cars, but believe the technology will end up saving more lives as it takes over for drivers who are sleepy, distracted or impaired.
“This is going to be a unfortunate obstacle that we are going to have to deal with to regain (the public’s) belief that these devices are safe,” Mark Rosenker, a former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, tells Reuters.
The NTSB is also investigating, CNN reports.
John Simpson, privacy and technology project director at Consumer Watchdog, tells USA Today there should be a moratorium on all self-driving cars until investigations are completed.
“Arizona has been the Wild West of robot car testing with virtually no regulations in place,” he says. “That’s why Uber and Waymo test there. When there’s no sheriff in town, people get killed.”