In what has become the first known death of a pedestrian by an autonomous vehicle, a self-driving Uber car has killed a woman in Tempe, Arizona. The woman was crossing on a crosswalk when hit.
The Uber vehicle was in autonomous mode with a human safety driver at the wheel when it struck the woman, killing her. According to The New York Times, the incident happened on Sunday around 10 p.m. The woman was not publicly identified. Uber said it had suspended testing of its self-driving cars in Tempe, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto.
The fatal crash will most likely prompt an even bigger and overbearing government response complete with regulations for self-driving cars. Legislators are already debating how much freedom the private sector should have. The proposed bills would preempt states from establishing their own laws overseeing autonomous testing, which could clash with California’s well-established system. But the bill is stalled in the Senate, with several lawmakers “expressing concern about the amount of leeway offered to the private sector.” Translation: the intrusive government is debating how much if any, freedom the private sector deserves. (Repeat: “we are free.”)
The testing of self-driving cars is already underway for vehicles that have a human driver ready to take over if something goes wrong, but states are starting to allow companies to test cars without a person in the driver’s seat. This month, California said that, in April, it would start allowing companies to test autonomous vehicles without anyone behind the wheel.
Arizona already allows self-driving cars to operate without a driver behind the wheel. Since late last year, Waymo, the self-driving car unit from Google’s parent company Alphabet, has been using cars without a human in the driver’s seat to pick up and drop off passengers there. The state has largely taken a hands-off approach, promising that it would help keep the driverless car industry free from regulation. As a result, technology companies have flocked to Arizona to test their self-driving vehicles. –The New York Times
Some say autonomous cars are expected to ultimately be safer than any human driver because they don’t get distracted and always observe traffic laws. However, researchers have been working on technology that will teach the autonomous systems to adjust for unpredictable human driving or behavior. But that technology has hit a rather bumpy road.
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