A self-driving Uber vehicle hit and fatally injured a woman in Tempe, Arizona, early Monday morning, with the San Francisco-based startup immediately halting all of its autonomous driving tests in the country following the incident. The woman was transported to a nearby hospital and ended up succumbing to her injuries, ABC15 reports, adding that the deadly crash occurred near the intersection of Curry Road and Mill Avenue. The victim is said to have been crossing a road outside of a crosswalk and while the self-driving vehicle wasn’t able to avoid an accident for unknown reasons, its human backup driver also appears to have failed to intervene as one was reportedly present inside the car, as required by local regulations. The victim also had a bicycle but it’s presently unclear whether she was riding it at the time of the incident, as per initial reports.
While the incident doesn’t mark the first fatality involving self-driving technologies — a U.S. national died while being driven by a Tesla in May of 2016 — it is the first such accident involving an experimental vehicle and the first that resulted in a pedestrian death. Traffic accidents caused over 40,00 deaths in the country in 2017 alone, according to a report published by the National Safety Council last month. Uber said it’s “fully cooperating” with local authorities who are presently investigating the fatal crash but hasn’t provided more details on the matter. Its self-driving program will presumably continue following the conclusion of the investigation.
The ride-hailing startup briefly paused the same initiative just under a year ago due to another Tempe crash, albeit one with less severe consequences. Self-driving Volvo XC90 SUVs are understood to have been involved in both accidents, being the primary models tested by the company’s Advanced Technologies Group established in early 2015 in Strip District, Pittsburgh, with the goal of developing driverless transportation solutions meant to compete with the likes of Alphabet’s Waymo. Uber Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi recently said the startup is seeking to commercialize its self-driving fleet by the second half of 2019. Another one of the company’s autonomous Volvos reportedly had a minor accident in Pittsburgh earlier this month.
Our hearts go out to the victim’s family. We’re fully cooperating with @TempePolice and local authorities as they investigate this incident.
— Uber Comms (@Uber_Comms) March 19, 2018