Lessons From the Uber Crash

The largest union for US truck drivers, which has taken a cautious view of autonomous vehicles, called for stronger safeguards after a self-driving SUV operated by Uber Technologies Inc. killed a pedestrian in Phoenix on Sunday.

The woman was taken to the local hospital where she died of the injuries.

A self-driving vehicle which was being used by Uber for testing the self-driving technology has killed a pedestrian on a street in Tempe, Arizona.

The ride services company said it was suspending North American tests of its self-driving vehicles, which are taking place in Arizona, Pittsburgh and Toronto.

Uber said in a statement, "Our hearts go out to the victim's family".

Self-driving cars have been hailed as the next major revolution in the automobile industry, ever since Henry Ford introduced the modern, compact cars. The California-based company has also gone on to halt autonomous vehicle testing.

Meanwhile, the fatal crash has raised the alarm of the safety and reliability of the self-driving technology. The vehicle was operating in autonomous mode under the supervision of a driver.

Before autonomous vehicles flood the roads, it is clear that safety concerns need to be investigated and the technology tested vigorously. The governments are also supporting them as they see potential in the technology to avoid many accidents in the future. Last year, it partially faulted Tesla Inc.'s Autopilot system for a fatal crash in Florida in 2016.

Volvo, the Swedish auto brand owned by China's Geely, confirmed its vehicle was involved in the crash but said the software controlling the SUV was not its own. But the incident seemingly hints that even with the driverless cars on the road, there will be situations when the accidents may turn out to be inevitable.

Her death is a tragic reminder that self-driving cars, though promising and seemingly far developed enough, remains somewhat of a risky experiment.

Test driver Rafael Vasquez, 44, was in the driver's seat when the incident occurred. She was walking her bicycle outside of the pedestrian crossing on a four-lane road in Tempe, Arizona around 22:00 on Sunday 18 March.

The NTSB opens relatively few highway accident probes each year, but has been closely following incidents involving autonomous or partially autonomous vehicles.

At the state level, Massachusetts Transportation Department spokesman Patrick Marvin said, "MassDOT will await the outcomes of any investigation in Arizona so that we can understand exactly what happened and what role the autonomous technologies played. When there's no sheriff in town, people get killed".

  • Zachary Reyes