The Uber Pedestrian Fatality Tells Us That Self-Driving Tech Is Not Ready for Roads

On March 18, 2018, there was an Uber pedestrian fatality. The vehicle, which was going 40 miles per hour in a 35 mile per hour zone, gave no signs of slowing down before hitting and killing the 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg. Herzberg was walking her bike across the street at the time.

Uber test driver Rafael Vasquez was behind the wheel of the Uber Volvo XC90 SUV at the time of the accident to monitoring the vehicle as a safeguard, but when the accident occurred the vehicle was in fully autonomous mode – meaning the car was driving itself, with no control on the part of the test driver.

Uber has been testing its autonomous vehicles in Arizona, Pittsburgh, and Toronto for some time. This accident is believed to be the first fatality caused by a self-driving car while the car was fully autonomous. As a response to this accident, Uber has halted its testing of autonomous vehicles for the time being.

Causes of the Uber Pedestrian Fatality

The accident is currently under investigation, so it is unknown whether charges will be filed or what the fallout of the accident will be. The Tempe Police Department says that it appears that the vehicle did not make any significant effort to slow down before striking Elaine Herzberg.

Rafael Vasquez, the test driver who was behind the wheel, showed no signs of impairment after the accident. Because of the unique circumstances, it is hard to predict whether or not he will be charged with negligence (or worse)—especially considering that the accident took place in a test of the vehicle’s self-driving ability. Autonomous cars are a legal frontier as well as a technological one, so it’s hard to say where the responsibility for the accident will ultimately lie.

What This Means for Self-Driving Cars

At this point, it’s hard to say what effect this accident will have on the development of self-driving cars. Uber has halted its testing in North America, but other companies are continuing to move ahead with self-driving vehicles. Companies like Google, GM, and Intel are working on testing. Google’s parent company is even launching a self-driving service in Arizona this year called Waymo. (Arizona has become a major hub for autonomous car testing because it rarely has inclement weather.)

No matter what conclusions we may draw, this accident makes it clear that we have a long way to go before self-driving cars are ready for mass market availability.

What to Do If You’ve Been Injured in an Accident

If you or a loved one is injured in an auto accident, you should first seek medical attention. You should also make sure you contact authorities. If your injuries were the result of neglect by another party, you should seek legal assistance. The Stoddard Firm has years of experience handling accident injuries, and we even offer a free initial consultation to discuss your case. Call us or contact us online today.

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