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.
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.