News and Commentary

UH-OH: Woman Killed By Uber Self-Driving Car

On Monday, the Tempe, Arizona police department announced that an Uber self-driving vehicle in Arizona had struck and killed a 49-year-old woman in the middle of the night Sunday night.

Uber said it would suspend its autonomous vehicle program tests of all its autonomous vehicles in Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Toronto and the greater Phoenix area. A company spokeswoman said, “Our hearts go out to the victim’s family. We are fully cooperating with local authorities in their investigation of this incident.”

According to Bloomberg, Elaine Herzberg was crossing the road outside of a crosswalk when the Uber vehicle, which was operating in autonomous mode under the supervision of a human safety driver, struck her. She died later in a hospital.

Liliana Duran, a Tempe police spokeswoman, stated, “Uber is assisting and this is still an active investigation.” The National Transportation Safety Board has started an investigation into the incident; the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration dispatched a special crash investigation team.

Bloomberg notes, “The Phoenix area is a fertile ground for experiments in the technology. Uber has been testing there with safety drivers behind the wheel. Late last year, Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo, which has tested in the Phoenix area for years, began removing the safety drivers to transport a small number of residents. (Waymo staff sit in the back seat.) General Motors Co. is also testing in the Phoenix area.”

In December 2016, the California DMV stated it would revoke the registrations of 16 cars owned by Uber and utilized to test its self-driving system. Uber had announced the launch of its pilot program in San Francisco, but had not registered with the state’s DMV.