A self-driving car of Uber struck and killed a woman who was crossing the street on Monday in Arizona, said police. This marked the first fatality involving autonomous vehicles and a possible blow to technology that is expected to transform tomorrow’s transportation.
The company of ride services said it had suspended tests in North America for its self-driving vehicles that were being carried out in Arizona, Pennsylvania and Toronto.
The robot cars as they are called, when completely developed by the likes of Alphabet, General Motors and Uber, are expected to cut down dramatically on the number of fatalities in motor vehicles and create businesses in the billions of dollars.
However, the accident on Monday underscored possible challenges that exist moving forward for the technology as the vehicles confront situations in the real world that involve real people.
Lawmakers in the U.S. have debated legislation that would speed up the process of introducing autonomous vehicles.
The tragic accident, says Senator Ed Markey, underscores why Congress much be exceptionally cautious when testing as well as deploying self-driving vehicle technologies on our public roads. Markey is a member of the Senate’s Transportation committee.
Elaine Herzberg, who was 49, was walking alongside her bicycle outside a crosswalk on a road with four lanes in a suburb of Phoenix about 10 p.m. local time on Sunday or 12:00 EST Monday morning, when the Uber vehicle struck her while traveling at approximately 40 mph, said police.
The vehicle, a Volvo XC90 was in its autonomous mode with an operator at the wheel. Herzberg died from the injuries she sustained at a nearby hospital, said police.
The police officer who attended the media said the pedestrian had been outside the crosswalk and the moment she walked into the lane of traffic she was hit. The officer added that he did not know yet how close Herzberg had been to the vehicle when she walked into the traffic lane.
Late Monday a San Francisco newspaper reported that the police where the accident occurred had said that after viewing videos that were taken from the Uber vehicle that it was clear it would have been very difficult to avoid a collision in any type of driving mode whether it be autonomous or human driven, due to how the woman came out from shadows into the roadway.
The police said that it appears preliminarily that Uber would not be at fault in the accident, but the officer did not rule out that there could be charges filed against the Uber vehicle operator.