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Self-Driving Vehicle Involved in First Pedestrian Fatality

by Anna Mischke | Mar 23, 2018

Driver News 032318On Sunday, March 18th a self-driving Uber fatally struck pedestrian, Elaine Herzberg, in Tempe, AZ. Since then, Uber has pulled their self-driving vehicles off public roads in the Phoenix metro area, San Francisco, Toronto, and Pittsburgh. Tempe’s mayor, Mark Mitchell, called Uber’s decision to suspend autonomous testing a “responsible step”.

The vehicle, a Volvo XC90 SUV, was in autonomous mode traveling around 40 miles per hour in a 45 mph speed zone; officials said the vehicle did not appear to slow down before impact.  A human safety driver was behind the wheel and the car was not carrying any passengers. Neither driver nor victim showed any signs of impairment. At about 10pm, Herzberg was struck as she pushed her bicycle across the road near Mill Avenue and Curry Road and was transported to the local hospital where she died from her injuries.

Tensions are high surrounding the accident as lawmakers, automobile manufacturers, and many others effected by the event scramble to state their cases on the safety or dangers of autonomous vehicles. While self-driving cars are widely expected to be safer than human-driven cars, there are many ways hardware and software can fail.

Uber is cooperating with the local authorities, and upon investigation, Tempe Police Chief, Sylvia Moir, says the crash was “unavoidable” and that “Uber would likely not be at fault in this accident.” This accident appears to be the first pedestrian fatality caused by an autonomous vehicle on a public road. Sarah Abboud, Uber spokeswoman, said in a statement “Our hearts go out to the victim’s family.” 

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