Uber stops self-driving car tests after fatality

self-driving vehicle in San Francisco
A self-driving Uber test drive in San Francisco, 2016. Photo by Diablanco, via Wikimedia Commons

Uber has stopped all of their autonomous vehicle testing after a car collided with a pedestrian that led to her death in hospital in Tempe, Arizona. The fatality is the first reported pedestrian fatality involving self-driving cars.

The woman who was 49 years old was walking outside of the footpath with her bicycle when the Uber vehicle that was in the autonomous mode struck her. The Tempe Police Department confirmed this statement also saying that the vehicle had a human safety driver present in the vehicle at the time.

The incident occurred around 10pm on Sunday, local time in Tempe. She was rushed to a nearby hospital where she later died from the injuries that she suffered. A Tempe Police Department spokeswoman stated that Uber are assisting the best they can in the active investigation.

Following the incident, Uber stated that they were pausing all of their tests revolving around self-driving cars on public roads in San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Phoenix and Toronto. They also tweeted saying that their hearts go out to the family of the victim and that they are fully cooperating with local authorities regarding the investigation of the incident.

A lot of companies including Uber, Alphabet and General Motors Co are all investing obscene amounts of money to develop the autonomous-vehicle technology. The rat race is so competitive because it has the potential to full transform the auto industry as we know it. If one company was to capture the market they would have the full control of it causing a lot of other companies to go out of business.

The fatality that occurred in Tempe has the potential to slow all testing and delay the commercialisation of these efforts. This incident could also potentially push the development of this technology back by years.

The National Transport Safety Board in America has opened an investigation into the incident and has sent a small team of investigators to the scene. The team also includes a special crash investigation team given the circumstances of the incident that occurred.

The National Transport Safety Board has opened numerous cases that relate to autonomous vehicles. Last year they were able to partially fault the system that Tesla vehicles use in the fatality that occurred from a crash in Florida in 2016.

As the technology grows, society has to look at how they deal with ethical dilemmas that involve technology. Who is at fault and the appropriate measures to take are still being explored as autonomous vehicles evolve.