Thursday, 26 April, 2018

A death in Tempe and the promise of self-driving cars

Uber driver speaking with police Uber driver speaking with police
Lindsey Cook | 30 March, 2018, 00:41

The incident marked the first pedestrian death stemming from a traffic accident involving a self-driving vehicle and while preliminary results of Tempe PD's investigation suggest the autonomous Uber auto wasn't at fault for the accident, the firm promptly suspended all of its driverless technology trials throughout the United States.

Uber, based in San Francisco, did not return an email seeking comment.

The incident comes as Uber, which has invested heavily in self-driving technology, tries to rebuild a reputation marred by scandals involving data breaches and a toxic workplace culture. The vehicle was in autonomous mode at the time of the accident, while a driver was behind the wheel.

Did Governor Ducey allow Uber to test self-driving cars in secret?

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators examine a self-driving Uber vehicle involved in a fatal accident in Tempe, Arizona, U.S., March 20, 2018.

Ducey lured Uber with the promise of hassle-free test driving.

Herzberg's death marks the first time a pedestrian has been killed by a self-driving vehicle. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey also ordered the Department of Transportation to immediately suspend all autonomous vehicle tests on public roadways within the state.

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"Dara and I both know all of you have been through a lot of change, and that is not easy", Meyhofer wrote in the email obtained by Bloomberg.

In that same 2015 executive order, Gov. Ducey also mandated the creation of the "Self-Driving Vehicle Oversight Committee", whose goal was to "advise... pertinent agencies how best to advance the testing and operation of self-driving vehicles on public roads".

Update 3/28, 3:26 PM: Updated with comment from the Arizona governor's office. "As governor, my top priority is public safety".

Experts have told The Associated Press that the SUV's laser and radar sensors should have spotted Herzberg, and the vehicle should have stopped.

Toyota North America Chief Executive Jim Lentz said the company expects to "soon" resume testing of self-driving vehicles, while warning that the ongoing risks will affect the industry's progress. Earlier this week, it was revealed that the company wouldn't be reapplying for a permit to test its self-driving cars in California.

Uber has about 200 vehicles at all four testing locations.

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