Uber Self-Driving Car Hits And Kills A Woman Crossing The Street

Uber Self-Driving Car Hits And Kills A Woman Crossing The Street

Does this spell the end for the self-driving car?

mAn Uber self-driving car hit and killed a woman crossing the street in Arizona. This is the first driverless car accident that has resulted in a fatality.

Reuters reports that it was 10 pm in a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona, when 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg was walking her bicycle across a four-lane road, outside the crosswalk. She was hit by the Uber vehicle — a Volvo XC90 SUV — which was travelling at around 40 mph (or 65 kph), reports Reuters.

Herzberg, who police say “may have been homeless”, died later at the hospital.

There was an operator behind the wheel of the vehicle, but it was operating in autonomous mode. The safety driver has been identified as Rafael Vasquez, 44, reports The Verge.

Uber’s response

driverless car accident

Source: Shutterstock

Uber has since suspended the tests of its self-driving vehicles in North America. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi called the death “incredibly sad news”.

Digital prophets have long hailed self-driving cars as vehicles of the future, saying that these driverless cars would decrease motor vehicle fatalities. But this incident has proven that the technology has a long way to go before it is ready to hit the streets.

“This tragic accident underscores why we need to be exceptionally cautious when testing and deploying autonomous vehicle technologies on public roads,” said Democratic Senator Edward Markey, a member of the transportation committee, in a statement.

Some notes on this driverless car accident

driverless car accident

Source: Shutterstock

Though it would be easy to place the blame on the driverless car, authorities note that it would have been difficult to avoid the collision, even with a human-driven car.

Herzberg did not use the crosswalk. She was hit as soon as she walked into the road.

Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir told The San Francisco Chronicle that from viewing videos taken from the vehicle “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.”

“I suspect preliminarily it appears that the Uber would likely not be at fault in this accident,” Moir continued, before adding that she “won’t rule out the potential to file charges against the (backup driver) in the Uber vehicle.”

Anthony Foxx, the former US Secretary of Transportation, tweeted: “There is still so much to know about the Tempe driverless car accident resulting in a loss of life. That said, this is a wake up call to the entire autonomous vehicle] industry and government to put a high priority on safety.”


What are your thoughts on this driverless car accident? Let us know in the comments!

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