Police chief says Uber 'likely not' at fault in pedestrian accident

by Garry Watts March 21, 2018, 3:32
Police chief says Uber 'likely not' at fault in pedestrian accident

The state has a long history of allowing automakers to test new vehicles on its wide, open roads and a 2015 executive order by Governor Doug Ducey paved the way for companies to test autonomous technology without interference by the legislature.

The operator of a self-driving Uber vehicle that fatally struck a 49-year-old woman in Arizona served time in prison for attempted armed robbery, according to a report.

Arizona has some of the most permissive regulations for autonomous vehicle testing, even after tightening them up a bit earlier this month opening the door to fully-autonomous cars without a backup driver on board.

The department is investigating the crash.

Herzberg was was walking her bicycle across a road in Tempe, near Phoenix, at around 10pm local time on Sunday when she was struck by the Volvo 4x4 and died from her injuries in hospital.

The vehicle was in autonomous mode at the time of the crash, police said. Still, many researchers believe that more self-driving cars will ultimately be safer than their human counterparts - and they may be right. These drivers sit behind the steering wheel and are trained to take over control whenever the vehicle makes a mistake or if an unsafe condition occurs.

There were no signs Vasquez was impaired after the collision, Sgt. Ronald Elcock, a Tempe police spokesman, said in a press conference. Tempe police noted that the self-driving vehicle did not slow down before hitting the pedestrian.

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Prior to suspending all tests, the company was trialing several dozen self-driving cars in Tempe, Arizona, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Toronto.

CEO Dara Khosrowshahi reacted on Twitter. We need to figure out how to avoid future tragedies, given the increasing use of driverless cars. However, the police chief of Tempe, Arizona, the place where the fatal accident occurred, says a preliminary investigation into the matter reveals that Uber is "likely" not at fault for what happened, and that it would have been hard to avoid the outcome whether a human driver was in charge or a series of sensors and cameras.

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office in Phoenix said it was awaiting the results of an investigation by Tempe police before reviewing whether any charges should be filed.

Why did this happen in Arizona? Earlier this month, Arizona governor Doug Ducey updated an executive order to allow for unmanned self-driving auto testing.

Arizona has little inclement weather.

"Arizona has been the wild west of robot vehicle testing with virtually no regulations in place", said Consumer Watchdog, a non-profit consumer advocacy group, in a statement.

The Colorado Public Utilities Commission slapped Uber's parent company with an $8.9 million penalty in November 2017 after a probe determined the ride-hailing service had hired about 60 drivers with felony convictions. Companies such as GM's Cruise and Intel are also testing in the state. It was the first fatal accident involving a self-driving vehicle and a pedestrian.

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