A Tempe, Ariz. woman died on Sunday night after being struck and killed by a self-driving Uber car. According to the New York Times, the vehicle was in autonomous mode with a human safety driver behind the wheel at the time of the accident. The woman, who was reportedly crossing a street near Curry Road and Mill Avenue, was later identified as 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg by Tempe police.
“Our hearts go out to the victim’s family,” Sarah Abboud, a spokesperson for Uber, said in a statement. “We are fully cooperating with local authorities in their investigation of this incident.”‘
This is believed to be the first known death of a pedestrian struck by self-driving vehicle, which should certainly raise concerns. Though Uber says it has suspended self-driving car tests in Tempe, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto, folks are still left to wonder what’s in store for the future of self-driving cars, especially since Arizona already allows autonomous vehicles to run without a human driver behind the wheel.
Some states are also beginning to allow companies to test cars without a person in the driver’s seat. Just this month, the New York Times reports, California said it would begin to allow companies to test autonomous vehicles without anyone behind the wheel as soon as April.
Missy Cummings, a robotics expert at Duke University, spoke to The Washington Post about the dangers of driverless technology.
“The car cameras, the vision systems, they don’t perform inductively, meaning they can’t guess about the appearance of someone in a particular place and time,” Cummings said. “Pedestrians get hit by human drivers all the time for similar reasons.”
Additonally, Cummings says that companies have, so far, not been required by the federal government to prove that their robotic driving systems are safe. “We’re not holding them to any standards right now,” she stated.