Innovation

Fatal pedestrian crash causes Uber to stop self-driving car tests

An Uber vehicle in autonomous driving mode killed a woman in Tempe, AZ, in the first known pedestrian fatality involving self-driving technology.

Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • An Uber vehicle in autonomous driving mode hit and killed a woman in Tempe, AZ, in the first known pedestrian fatality involving the self-driving technology.
  • Uber has temporarily stopped its self-driving operations in Tempe and all other cities where it has been testing its vehicles, including Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Toronto.

An Uber car in autonomous driving mode struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, AZ, on Monday, in the first known pedestrian fatality involving the self-driving technology, as reported by our sister site CNET. Uber has since temporarily stopped its self-driving operations in Tempe and all other cities where it has been testing its vehicles, including Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Toronto.

The vehicle was in autonomous mode at the time of the accident, with a vehicle operator behind the wheel, according to a statement from the Tempe police.

The female victim walking outside of the crosswalk crossed Curry Road in Tempe, and was struck by the Uber car, the police said in the statement. She was transported to a local hospital, where she passed away from her injuries.

SEE: IT leader's guide to the future of autonomous vehicles (Tech Pro Research)

The investigation is still active, and Uber is assisting, the police said in the statement.

"Our hearts go out to the victim's family," an Uber spokeswoman said in a statement. "We are fully cooperating with local authorities in their investigation of this incident."

"Some incredibly sad news out of Arizona," Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi tweeted on Monday. "We're thinking of the victim's family as we work with local law enforcement to understand what happened."

This is the first known pedestrian fatality from a self-driving car. However, autonomous vehicles have been involved in a number of other accidents, including backing into a delivery truck in Las Vegas and getting hit by another car whose human driver did not yield in Tempe, both in 2017.

In May 2016, a Tesla driver was killed in an accident while the car was operating in its semi-autonomous Autopilot mode. A US Department of Transportation investigation did not identify any defects in design or performance of the Autopilot system.

The pedestrian fatality could have immediate implications for the rollout of self-driving taxis and delivery vehicles, which are predicted by many to be the first widespread applications of self-driving technology. It could mean that progress is slowed until more regulations are in place.

The accident could also impact discussions around how autonomous vehicles will change auto insurance. KPMG estimates that the technology will lead to an 80% drop in accident frequency by 2040, and that providers will need to shift from covering the car itself to the software of the car. It remains to be seen how coverage of accidents like this may change.

Also see

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Image: James Martin/CNET

About Alison DeNisco Rayome

Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

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