A woman in Tempe, Arizona was struck and killed by a self-driving Uber car Sunday night in an accident that may set the self-driving car industry back in terms of public perception. The Uber vehicle was in the self-driving mode when the woman was struck, however, a safety driver was at the wheel.
Uber responded the incident in a statement saying the company is "fully cooperating with local authorities." The company has halted their self-driving testing in Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Toronto because of the accident. The woman was reportedly walking outside the designated crosswalk around 10 p.m. when the Uber struck her.
Sgt. Ronald Elcock, a Tempe police spokesman, confirmed the car was in autonomous mode with a driver behind the wheel and there were no other passengers. National Transportation Safety Board officials announced they were sending a team to Arizona to investigate in a tweet.
The autonomous movement has been largely supported by Federal regulators, both Obama's administration and Trump's had transportation secrets to help create a framework for companies to share developments in a way that didn't comprise trade secrets.
The woman killed Sunday seems to be the first human killed by an autonomous vehicle.
Autonomous vehicle proponents have said it would cut down on fatal accidents drastically. In 2016 alone, 37,000 were killed in traffic accidents, a figure 6% higher than the year before.
John Simpson, privacy and technology project director at Consumer Watchdog said, "There should be a national moratorium on all robot car testing on public roads until the complete details of this tragedy are made public and are analyzed by outside experts so we understand what went so terribly wrong."
"Arizona has been the wild west of robot car testing with virtually no regulations in place," Simpson continued. "That’s why Uber and Waymo test there. When there’s no sheriff in town, people get killed." A survey conducted last year on public views on autonomy revealed 49% of consumers say they don't currently feel confident in AVs' abilities to navigate safely.
Another 84% said they were concerned about vehicle-software failing and 80% were concerned with mechanical failure.
Timothy Carone, an associate teaching professor in the Department of IT, Analytics, and Operations at the University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business said, "Transitioning the knowledge that human beings have acquired over the decades of driving and flying over to autonomous systems like a driverless car or unmanned plane is a complex undertaking that will itself takes years of work for society to recognize the benefits of autonomous systems."
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