Monday 12 November 2018

Arizona governor suspends Uber from autonomous testing

Elaine Herzberg, 49, died last week.

The fatal crash took place last week (Tempe Police Department/AP)
The fatal crash took place last week (Tempe Police Department/AP)

By Melissa Daniels, Associated Press

Arizona governor Doug Ducey has suspended Uber’s self-driving vehicle testing privileges in the wake of a pedestrian fatality in a Phoenix suburb last week.

Mr Ducey told the company CEO Dara Khosrowshahi that video footage of the crash raised concerns about the company’s ability to safely test its technology in the state.

He said he expects public safety to be the top priority for those who operate self-driving cars.

“The incident that took place on March 18 is an unquestionable failure to comply with this expectation,” he said.

The move by the Republican governor marks a major step back from his embrace of self-driving vehicles.

He previously welcomed Uber and other autonomous vehicle companies to use Arizona as a place for testing under few, if any, regulations.

In early March, he authorised self-driving vehicle companies to run tests without a person in the car to act as a safety operator.

Police in Tempe released a 22-second video showing a woman walking from a darkened area onto a street just before an Uber SUV strikes her.

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The company suspended self-driving testing in four cities after the crash (Laura Dale/PA)

The Volvo was in self-driving mode with a human backup driver at the wheel when it struck 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, police said.

Uber’s human backup driver appears on the video to be looking down before crash and appears startled about the time of the impact.

Experts who viewed the video said the SUV’s sensors should have seen the woman pushing a bicycle and braked before the impact.

The fatal crash in Tempe was the first fatality involving a self-driving vehicle in the United States.

Uber immediately suspended its self-driving vehicle testing in Arizona, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto.

On Friday, The New York Times reported that the company’s own documents showed the testing program was rife with issues.

They included trouble driving through construction zones and requiring far more human intervention than competing companies.

In Arizona, companies such as Uber only need to carry minimum liability insurance to operate self-driving cars. They are not required to track crashes or report any information to the state.

Uber did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Press Association

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