Uber has been testing self-driving vehicles on the road since December 2016, when it first became possible for Uber passengers to request a self-driving vehicle in San Francisco. In 2017, the company entered an agreement with Volvo to bring 24,000 self-driving Uber cars to rideshare passengers in the coming years. Now, all of the company’s self-driving vehicle testing has come to an abrupt halt.
A woman in Tempe, Arizona was killed by a self-driving Uber car late Sunday night or early Monday morning. She was crossing the street outside of a crosswalk. The Uber vehicle was traveling in automonous mode with a human safety driver at the wheel when it struck the woman.
Not much is known about the accident except for those details, but Uber is fully cooperating with the local police to figure out what happened and why. In the meantime, Uber has suspended testing of all of its self-driving cars in Tempe as well as in the other cities the company is testing in. These cities include San Francisco, Pittsburgh, and Toronto. It will be up to the police to determine whether the accident was unavoidable or if Uber’s safety protocols or the effectiveness of the company’s self-driving technology may be at fault in any way.
The current Uber self-driving test vehicles are all Volvo SUVs that have been modified with radar, LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging, a remote sensing method), and the necessary computer systems to process the incoming sensory data. Uber’s self-driving vehicles all still have a human safety driver but other self-driving vehicles, like Google’s Waymo, have recently started making trips without a physical human inside.
This accident is likely to be a major setback in Uber’s self-driving vehicle testing and is unfortunate. Liability is extremely difficult to determine in the case of self-driving cars, but before the vehicles are allowed to become commonplace, they must be proven to be safe. This is the first time a pedestrian has been hit and killed by a self-driving vehicle, but Tesla’s Autopilot system, a semi-autonomous computer-aided driving system, has been scrutinized in several fatal crashes.
If you have any questions about Uber’s self-driving vehicles or how liability is decided during cases like this, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Rideshare Law Group.
Update: Dashcam footage of the accident has been released to the media.
Photo Credit: New York Times