Self-Driving Uber Kills Pedestrian in Phoenix—First Reported AV Fatality

Chris Jasurek
By Chris Jasurek
March 19, 2018US News
Self-Driving Uber Kills Pedestrian in Phoenix—First Reported AV Fatality
This Uber autonomous Volvo is similar to the one involved in the fatal crash in Tempe, Ariz. (Wikimedia Commons)

A woman crossing a street was struck by an Uber automated vehicle and later died of her injuries at a hospital in Tempe, Arizona, on March 19.

According to Bloomberg Technology, the autonomous vehicle (AV) was part of Uber’s real-world test program and had a human safety driver behind the wheel.

The woman reportedly was not in a marked crosswalk. Neither the vehicle’s artificial intelligence nor the human backup driver recognized the danger.

The details of the accident are still being determined.    

“Uber is assisting and this is still an active investigation,” said Liliana Duran, spokeswoman for the Tempe police.

Uber announced it is suspending all testing in the greater Phoenix area, as well as in Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Toronto.

“Our hearts go out to the victim’s family,” a company spokeswoman said on Twitter. “We are fully cooperating with local authorities in their investigation of this incident.”   

Leo99 replied on Twitter, “Understand what happened? Your technology isn’t safe, and an innocent person is dead. That’s what happened. Duh.”

‏This is the first reported fatality caused by an AV, after millions of miles of testing. Waymo, the Alphabet-owned AV firm, claimed in a Forbes article on March 2. Waymo has done 5 million miles of testing. Uber claims to have tested its AVs through 2 million miles of real-world driving.

Prior to the Uber accident, Waymo had plans to launch its own AV taxi fleet in Phoenix.

According to Bloomberg, Uber has had close calls in the past.

In one incident an Uber AV ran a red light in San Francisco. At the time Uber was operating without regulatory approval and was forced to park its cars.

The National Transportation Safety Board is sending a team of investigators to Tempe to look into the accident, NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss said.

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