Uber self-driving Car hits, kills Arizona pedestrian; company suspends testing
The self-driving car, which is considered to the future of transportation, was involved in a fatal vehicle accident that killed one pedestrian woman. An Uber self-driving car in Arizona was involved in a crash that killed a woman crossing the street early on Monday, ABC15 reported, making it the first fatality involving an autonomous vehicle in the U.S.
The Tempe police said in a statement that the self-driving car was in autonomous mode when the vehicle struck 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg while she was walking outside of a crosswalk. Herzberg was taken to a hospital where she later died of her injuries.
“The pedestrian was outside of the crosswalk. As soon as she walked into the lane of traffic she was struck,” Tempe Police Sergeant Ronald Elcock told reporters during a news conference. While the vehicle was moving around 40 miles per hour when it struck Herzberg reveal the preliminary investigation, it is not yet known how close Herzberg was to the vehicle when she stepped into the lane, he added.
Elcock also said he believed Herzberg may have been homeless.
Chief of police Sylvia Moir told the San Francisco Chronicle on Monday that video footage taken from cameras fitted to the autonomous Volvo SUV potentially indicate that Uber is not at fault and the victim is more likely to be blamed for the incident.
“It’s very clear it would have been difficult to avoid this collision in any kind of mode [autonomous or human-driven] based on how she came from the shadows right into the roadway,” Moir told the paper, adding that the incident took place roughly 100 yards from a crosswalk. “It is dangerous to cross roadways in the evening hour when well-illuminated managed crosswalks are available,” she said.
Although the vehicle was operating in autonomous mode, a driver was present in the front seat. But Moir said there appears to be little he could have done to intervene before the crash.
“The driver said it was like a flash, the person walked out in front of them,” Moir said. “His first alert to the collision was the sound of the collision.”
Following the incident, Uber said it has suspended North American tests of its self-driving vehicles, which are currently going on in Arizona, Pittsburgh and Toronto. Uber said in a statement on Twitter: “Our hearts go out to the victim’s family. We are fully cooperating with local authorities in their investigation of this incident.” However, a spokesman refused to comment further on the crash.
Uber’s CEO, tweeted: “Some incredibly sad news out of Arizona. We’re thinking of the victim’s family as we work with local law enforcement to understand what happened.”
The incident is currently being investigated by Tempe authorities and federal officials. Canada’s transportation ministry in Ontario, where Uber conducts testing, also said it was reviewing the accident.
Video footage will help the ongoing investigation, and the case would be submitted to the district attorney, Elcock said.
“Our investigators have that information, and they will be using that in their investigation as well as the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office as part of their investigation,” said Elcock. “They are going to attempt to try to find who was possibly at fault and how we can better be safe, whether it’s pedestrians or whether it’s the vehicle itself.”
The latest incident is a prime example that self-driving technology is still in its early stage of development and hence, self-driving cars are not yet ready for our roads.