Self-driving Uber Taxi Kills Cyclist
The aftermath of Sunday’s incident.
A lady cyclist has died after being struck by a self-driving Uber taxi in Tempe, Arizona, in what is believed to be the first instance of a death involving autonomous cars and the general public.
The Uber taxi was in self-driving or autonomous mode when the accident happened, although the vehicle did have a human ‘safety’ driver behind the wheel as well when the vehicle struck the woman who was crossing the road with her bicycle. Police said that the lady was not crossing the road at a designated crossing point when she was struck on Sunday at about 10pm.
Uber immediately suspended all testing of its self-driving cars in Tempe, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto as a result of the accident, and they will not resume until a complete analysis of the causation of the fatality are known. In a statement, the company said: “Our hearts go out to the victim’s family. We are fully cooperating with the local authorities in their investigation of this incident.”
Proponents of artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles will be quick to point out that this is but one accident and whilst unfortunate for the victim, many more people are killed by human-guided vehicles everyday than by autonomous ones. However, the debate will no doubt raise questions about the regulations governing self-driving cars.
Most of the testing is being done with a human driver who can resume command of the vehicle should there be a problem. Arizona already allows for completely autonomous testing and has vowed to keep the autonomous car industry as unregulated as possible; as a result of this, tech companies have flocked there to test the technology. Waymo, which is owned by Google, has been doing just that since last year, without incident.
Autonomous cars are expected to make the roads a much safer place for humans to be because the machine will not get distracted or drive drunk, and obey all the other traffic laws, but there is a problem and that is when you mix humans and machine together on the same road. Researchers apparently are having a devil of a job teaching machines to adjust for us pesky and unpredictable humans.
A year ago, another chaperoned Uber SUV was involved in an accident after the driver of another vehicle refused to yield.