An Uber self-driving autonomous vehicle tragically caused the wrongful death of a pedestrian on Sunday. According to CNN, the Uber wrongful death accident happened in Tempe, Arizona, where Uber has been testing its autonomous vehicle technology. This particular accident involved a Volvo XC90 SUV, which struck a pedestrian.
The Uber pedestrian accident occurred when Elaine Herzberg, a pedestrian who was walking her bike across the street, was struck and killed by the Uber SUV. Ms. Herzberg was 49 years old and passed away due to the impact with the SUV. Preliminary reports indicate that the SUV appeared to be going about 40 miles per hour in an area where the speed limit was 35 miles per hour.
The Uber test driver, Rafael Vasquez, was behind the wheel of the car, but the car was allegedly in full autonomous mode. Apparently Vasquez was not able to do anything, or enough, to avoid the accident and the wrongful death of Ms. Herzberg.
After this tragic Uber accident, Uber has announced that they are cooperating with the investigation and that they have stopped testing autonomous vehicles in the United States and Canada. It is not currently clear how long they will stop testing the vehicles for, but we hope they wait at least as long as it takes to identify what fault in the system caused this incident and they figure out how to prevent it from happening in the future.
We hear arguments that autonomous vehicles are safer than human driven vehicles, that they cause fewer accidents and fewer deaths, etc. As a whole, that may be true, but we believe that a responsibly driven human vehicle is safer than an autonomous vehicle, based on the current technology available. We hope that the technology accelerates to the point where humans won’t have to fear that an autonomously driven vehicle may run them over without stopping while they are crossing the street.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Elaine Herzberg.