This marks the very first fatality that has occurred involving an autonomous vehicle and quite possibly a heavy blow on its credibility as the transport of the future. According to early police investigations, she suddenly stepped into the road pushing a bicycle and the vehicle, which was in self-driving mode, made no attempt to brake.
The crash in Arizona isn't the first involving an Uber autonomous test vehicle.
Although the police statement says that the woman was walking when being rolled up, images broadcast by #Abc News show a bicycle on the ground next to the autonomous auto, apparently damaged by Uber's vehicle. The ride-sharing transportation company, Uber suspending its self-driving test across the country.
Meanwhile, the fatal crash has raised the alarm of the safety and reliability of the self-driving technology.
"It is important to remember that this technology brings with it significant road safety benefits, but it doesn't promise to eradicate all serious and fatal crashes, because the human element will always be involved in some way", said a representative from the Australia New Zealand Driverless Vehicle Initiative. Companies including Alphabet, General Motors Co., Uber and Tesla Inc. are investing billions of dollars to develop the technology.
Aside from raising the regulatory barrier, the recent tragedy also damages the perception of self-driving cars in the eyes of the public.
Republican Governor Doug Ducey reached out to Uber in 2016 after California regulators cracked down on the company over its failure to obtain testing permits. The company has had more than 100 autonomous cars testing on the roads of the greater Phoenix area, its prime testing ground due to the Arizona state's loose regulations and hospitable weather. However, the reports say that there was an operator behind the wheel as well, at the time of the crash. "Uber is assisting and this is still an active investigation", Liliana Duran, a Tempe police spokesman, said in an emailed statement.
We are aware of the accident.
In a statement, the NHTSA said it is "in contact with Uber, Volvo, federal, state and local authorities regarding the incident" and will take appropriate action.
Autonomous vehicles from Uber have been operating in Arizona since February of 2017, part of a national series of tests of autonomous vehicles. The new (or lack of) regulations, however, are now under fire for perpetuating potential risk to the public.