UPDATED: First pedestrian death in collision with self-driving vehicle

by Truck News

TEMPE, Ariz. – A tragic collision overnight has resulted in the first pedestrian death from a self-driving vehicle and has suspended a large live-test of semi-autonomous vehicles with Uber.

A car with the ride-sharing service was operating in self-driving mode with a human in the driver’s seat when it struck and killed a woman in Arizona overnight.

The incident comes as the U.S. group Consumer Watchdog, including president of the Truck Safety Coalition Dawn King, is calling on the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to provide better oversight to the technology.

In a letter to DOT secretary Elaine Chao signed by 26 people including King, the group says the regulatory body has the legal imperative to evaluate the safety of autonomous technologies before entering the marketplace, and spaces where they could harm drivers, pedestrians, and other road users.

“The Department and its safety agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), have chosen to be detached spectators instead of engaged safety regulators during one of the most crucial and critical times in the history of automobiles. Unfortunately, inaction and indifference have grave and dangerous consequences for everyone — passengers in driverless cars, other motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians and members of the disability community,” the letter says.

This week also marks the second week of testing for Waymo on its self-driving technology, with semi-autonomous fully-loaded Class 8 trucks hauling freight to Google data centers between Nevada and California.

Groups like Consumer Watchdog are paying close attention as Waymo and other companies like Embark continue to conduct the live tests on heavy-duty vehicles, as well as the passenger vehicles Uber uses.

Uber says it has suspended its testing of the technology in all four cities where it had the cars on the road, including Toronto, Ont. and Tempe, and is co-operating with police as they investigate the incident.

You can read the full letter to the DOT here.

This story has been updated from an earlier version to include new information.

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  • Who wants this anyway?? Not the poor people who rely on driving jobs to live!!! Only the Rich who get richer wants this!!!!! This should not happen.

  • We don’t have planes flying without pilots, even though they can fly themselves. And they don’t even need to stay between the lines, or stop short of hazard. Why is this being accelerated beyond the technology that exists? Especially considering how easy it is to hack this type of technology. I saw it on TV, some guy with a smart phone was opening the locks and starting the vehicle of someone he didn’t even know.

  • It will be unfortunate in a case like this accident involving a big highway truck with no driver so who get the blame???
    Give a citation to the truck number I presume and company pay for it.
    With the weather changing rapidly and being unpredictable say high cross wind driverless truck do not know and keep speed till flip over it happen even with un experience driver.
    Real drivers will always be in demand big time.

    • American say that they will be short 160,000 drivers by 2028. Does that mean they will have 160,000 driverless trucks on the road?

      I think they need to open up 160,000 DECENT PAYING driving jobs.

  • Autonomous cars are a huge joke. This is Arizona! Imagine the carnage that would take place in New York or Miami. So the cars systems failed and of course the driver wasn’t paying attention do not much of a back up driver. How at 38 MPH there isn’t time to react is beyond me. Only the worst drivers need driverless cars, and even then now OUR lives are in the hands of computers because you know if you give a stupid human a chance to be distracted, they will be. They barely watch the road now while on their phones, do you honestly think they will ever look up? There will be life hacks coming out like hats that look like faces so the autonomous system will think you are looking up when you are indeed not. Hey I’m so glad I lived before all the technology long enough to know how to live without it, and function without it. I’m 36. The last generation that could think, drive, meet people face to face, have fun without iPad, doesn’t have Facebook, doesn’t care.