One of Uber’s autonomous Volvo XC90s has been involved in a fatal crash in Tempe, Arizona.
While the accident is still under investigation, ABC15 reports the accident occurred early this morning when a woman was crossing a street and was struck by the vehicle. The woman was taken to a nearby hospital but she eventually passed away.
Details are limited but the Tempe Police have reportedly confirmed the vehicle was operating autonomously at the time of the crash and had a safety driver behind the wheel. If true, this potentially means both the vehicle and the safety driver failed to notice the woman.
The incident is obviously tragic but the report notes the woman wasn’t using a crossover walk. Given the time when the accident occurred, it’s possible the safety driver didn’t see the woman and wasn’t anticipating someone crossing the street in a non-designated area. This would have been the ideal time for the autonomous driving system to bring the vehicle to a halt but, unfortunately, that didn’t happen.
We’ve reached out to Uber for additional information but the company has already released a short statement on Twitter saying “Our hearts go out to the victim’s family. We’re fully cooperating with @TempePolice and local authorities as they investigate this incident.”
An Uber spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal that the company “is temporarily pulling its self-driving cars off the roads in Tempe, San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Toronto, where it is testing them”.
This isn’t Uber’s first crash but the fatal nature of the accident will likely cause intense scrutiny of the company’s autonomous driving technology and safety procedures. The crash also brings renewed focus to Arizona’s openness for fully autonomous vehicles as the state already allows Waymo to operate without safety drivers and recently approved the company’s fully-autonomous ride-hailing service.
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
Thanks to Vern for the tip!