A woman who was struck by a self-driving Uber car in Tempe, Arizona, on Sunday has succumbed to her injuries.
Reportedly, the Uber vehicle was in autonomous mode with a human safety driver at the helm and struck the woman around 10pm as she was walking on the street.
The incident marks the first pedestrian death attributed to an autonomous vehicle ever recorded — and it has caused Uber to temporarily suspend the testing of its self-driving cars in Tempe, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Toronto.
The Wild West
Since Arizona legalized ride sharing in 2015, the state has become a popular testing ground for companies in the autonomous driving race, thanks largely to the state’s “anything goes” attitude toward regulation.
But Arizona’s liberal policies on this tech have drawn criticism: Last year, Rosemary Shahan, president of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, said of the odd no-holds-barred philosophy: “It’s open season on other Arizona drivers and pedestrians.”
Yeah, maybe we pump the breaks, gang
While Tempe’s mayor defended the city’s support of autonomous vehicles on Twitter yesterday, many believe it’s important to acknowledge that the tech just isn’t quite there yet.
Researchers working on autonomous driving technology have understandably struggled with how to teach autonomous systems to correct for unpredictable human behavior.
Whether this incident was “unpredictable” remains unclear at the moment — but it’s likely to raise regulatory flags either way.