Uber’ Self-Driving Car Project Side-Tracked by First Human Victim in Arizona


A recent event involving Uber’s self-driving car prototype might have far-reaching consequences both for the company and the project. Phoenix authorities reported that a 47-year-old pedestrian was killed after being rammed by a fully-automated Uber SUV. The company, who vowed to make the roads safer with smart vehicles, declared that it would work with the authorities to determine the cause of this tragedy.

Self-Driving Car Fatal Accident Leading to More Severe Regulations?

The fatal accident, which took place on Sunday night in Tempe, Arizona may have dire consequence for Uber and other tech companies that are racing towards bringing fully-automated self-driving vehicles on US roads.

Arizona authorities declared that 47-year-old Elaine Herzberg by the Uber-owned Volvo SUV as she stepped on the street. Moreover, the investigation determined that Herzberg was not on a pedestrian crossing when she got hit by the self-driving car.

Although the aim of Uber’s project is to launch fully independent vehicles, the SUV’s drive test was supervised by a human driver whose job was to step in when the car’s navigation system fails.

From the preliminary report, it appears that neither the driver nor the car’s computer could not have averted the tragedy.

Albeit an isolated incident, it does cast doubt on the future of self-driving vehicles which should decrease the number of pedestrian kills. Following the incident, lawmakers will enforce stricter testing policy and could limit the number of self-driving vehicle tests.

Pending the outcome of the investigation, Uber has halted all tests scheduled in Toronto, San Francisco, Phoenix, and Pittsburgh.


A study conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board reveal that, each year, approximately 6,000 pedestrians would die in car-related accidents and that 94 percent of accidents are caused by human error. As a result, a self-driving car equipped with a computer that can’t get drunk or distracted is the solution to reducing traffic casualties.

Image source: Wikipedia

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