Self-driving Uber Hits and Kills Pedestrian: How Did This Happen?

self-driving Uber

On Sunday night in Tempe, Arizona, a self-driving Uber Volvo killed 49-Year-old Elaine Herzberg as she was walked her bicycle across the street.

The crash is still under investigation by the Tempe Police Department. Based on preliminary information police say that there is no indication that the XC90 SUV slowed down prior to making contact with Herzberg.  Behind the wheel of the Uber car in autonomous mode was 44-year-old test driver, Rafael Vasquez. Police have shared that the SUV was traveling northbound around 10:00 pm, at 40 mph in an indicated 45mph zone, approaching Curry Road where Herzberg was crossing the street on foot and was struck. She would later succumb to her injuries at a nearby medical hospital.

In addition to the Temple police department, the National Transportation Safety Board is also conducting an investigation. Uber took to their social media platforms on Monday sharing, “Our hearts go out to the victim’s family. We’re fully cooperating with @TempePolice and local authorities as they investigate this incident.” Since this fatality, Uber has pulled their self-driving test vehicle fleet off the roads from cities in Arizona, California, Pennsylvania and the city of Toronto, Canada.

Many states, Including Arizona, welcomed the implementation of these vehicles on their street as they are believed to be a safe option due to technology. This fatality will serve as a striking and unfortunate setback for the autonomous community. With manufacturers such as General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Volvo, and Tesla intergrading autonomous driving technology into their vehicles, throughout various stages of production. What does this mean for the AV market? With the target year of self-driving vehicles to hit roads across America as early as 2020, can the needed updates and community reassurance of passenger, and pedestrian safety be without flaw and adjusted properly by then? Or, does this megaphone a once muffled voice of concern swaying the public opinion of autonomous vehicles moving forward?