A debate over the safety of autonomous vehicles and other driver-less technologies has erupted after an Uber self-driving car killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona on Sunday night. The incident is marked as the first fatality involving any autonomous vehicle. The pedestrian was attempting to cross 8 lanes of traffic outside of the crosswalk when she was struck, posing questions about the ability of self-driving cars to identify unexpected obstacles. Uber has halted all autonomous vehicle testing due to the incident.
Traffic fatalities are an unfortunate part of every day life. Tens of thousands of drivers, passengers, and pedestrians are killed every year by cars with people in control. Some ethics experts argue that once machine-driven vehicles are safe enough to cause fewer fatal accidents than human-driven vehicles, the correct course of action would be to only allow machine-driven vehicles on the roads. It does not appear that autonomous vehicles are at that threshold just yet.
As autonomous vehicles become more common, more crashes will occur. To date, most crashes involving self-driving cars have been the fault of other vehicles. Fault for the Arizona crash has not yet been fully determined, but the Tempe Police Chief has stated that Uber “would likely not be at fault in this accident.” According to footage of the crash, the backup driver in the Uber vehicle had no time to react to the pedestrian. Time of day and road design are also considered possible factors in the incident.
This news story will be developing as further information about the incident unfolds. The Law Offices of Scott Warmuth closely monitors all possible changes to car accident law in California, and throughout the country.