Automotive

Uber stops self-driving car project following first pedestrian death

Uber stops self-driving car pr...
Uber has suspended its self-driving operations after a fatal accident in Tempe
Uber has suspended its self-driving operations after a fatal accident in Tempe
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Uber's autonomous car project has been gathering steam since starting off in Pittsburgh in September 2016
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Uber's autonomous car project has been gathering steam since starting off in Pittsburgh in September 2016
Uber has suspended its self-driving operations after a fatal accident in Tempe
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Uber has suspended its self-driving operations after a fatal accident in Tempe

Uber has suspended its self-driving operations after one of its vehicles was involved in a fatal collision, causing what is believed to be the first pedestrian death attributed to autonomous cars.

Uber's autonomous car project has been gathering steam since starting off in Pittsburgh in September 2016, deploying self-driving Volvo XC90s in San Francisco, Toronto and in the Phoenix area. It was there, in the city of Tempe, that the accident took place.

Although a human was behind the wheel at the time, the car was operating in autonomous mode, striking a pedestrian crossing the road at approximately 40 mph (64km/h), according to Tempe police, while showing no sign of slowing down. The 49-year-old woman was rushed to hospital and later died from her injuries.

Officials note that the investigation is still in its very early stages, and reporters were told in a press conference on Monday that cameras mounted inside and outside the vehicle captured the accident and the footage will help them learn more. They have confirmed the pedestrian was crossing the road outside the crosswalk.

Uber's autonomous car project has been gathering steam since starting off in Pittsburgh in September 2016
Uber's autonomous car project has been gathering steam since starting off in Pittsburgh in September 2016

Uber suspended its self-driving operations following the crash, and announced on Twitter that it was "fully cooperating with Tempe Police and local authorities as they investigate this incident."

The company's CEO Dara Khosrowshahi also weighed in on Twitter, saying "some incredibly sad news out of Arizona. We're thinking of the victim's family as we work with local law enforcement to understand what happened."

Autonomous driving is a fast-moving field with a lot of big names investing serious resources in the technology, including Renault, Ford, GM and VW, just to name a few. It is way too early to tell what sort of impact this incident will have on the burgeoning industry, but as the first pedestrian death attributed to an autonomously driven car, it is undoubtedly a significant moment.

"There is still so much to know about the Tempe driverless car accident resulting in a loss of life," tweeted Anthony Foxx, who served as the US Secretary of Transportation during the Obama Administration and has been previously shared his belief in the driverless revolution. "That said, this is a wake up call to the entire AV industry and government to put a high priority on safety."

Source: NBC

7 comments
Daishi
Maybe it's time for Uber to have a reality check and realize they have easier problems than this they are failing to solve. By the time self driving technology is both stable and inexpensive the patents for the work over the last 5-10 years will likely be expired. Waymo has been testing self driving cars since 2009 so their tech is >10 years old now. I was told level 4 autonomy would happen by 2018 and here we are. Tesla chose not to put a speedometer on the dash of the Model 3 because in a self driving world who needs one? When full autonomy is actually a thing with the 3s coming off the line now even still be on the roads?
sweetcheeks
The headline is misleading - they have *suspended* rather than *stopped* the project. Also in the first paragraph you say that the death is "attributed to autonomous cars" - the cause if not known at the moment. The death is likely to be attributed to the person who stepped in front of a car doing 40mph.
owlbeyou
Wait a minute. This pedestrian walks her bicycle onto the street at night. Uber Volvo doing 40mph, and this high tech car didn't or wasn't able to brake or veer away? Something stinks here. I have a sense that this burgeoning industry of self-driving autonomous vehicles (which will be enormously expensive in infrastructure costs) is building such a huge momentum that it will sweep this incident under the rug as expediently as possible so that it becomes yesterday's news and quickly forgotten. The priority here is to take this technology in to a revolution of the road system, and no one is going to stop it, even if it's not really needed.
jd_dunerider
I'm curious to know if it made a calculation based on the surroundings and attempted only braking instead of swerving and braking to risk fewer lives. Either way, probably don't go walking into 40mph traffic outside of a crosswalk, hardly seems like the fault of the autonomous car.
Bruce H. Anderson
I was bound to happen. People are not machines, certainly capable of making more mistakes than most algorithms may be prepared for.
EZ
Nobody can stand in the way of new technology in the US or any other country. Big money trumps the lowly human.
Daishi
I've driven as many miles as Ubers autonomous car program and I've never hit (or much less killed) a pedestrian.