On Sunday, March 18th, Arizona woman Elaine Herzberg was killed by a self-driving car. This is believed to be the first pedestrian fatality by a self-driving car.
The car, owned by Uber, contained a human driver who was supposed to take the wheel if the system malfunctioned.
The driver made no attempt to stop the vehicle or turn the car away as it approached Ms. Herzberg. Arizona police say the driver showed no signs of impairment, and the weather was clear and dry at that time.
"This tragic incident makes clear that autonomous vehicle technology has a long way to go before it is truly safe for the passengers, pedestrians, and drivers", said Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.
Where Self-Driving Cars Go to Learn
Though many driverless technology companies work out of California, much of the testing on public roads happens in Arizona.
As soon as Arizona governor, Doug Ducey, learned of the tech companies’ need for testing locations, he jumped at the chance to offer up his state. With very little regulation in place, great driving weather, and wide roads, Arizona is the perfect state for the companies to go through their processes of trial and error.
Driverless cars may legally drive in Arizona as long as a passenger has a valid driver’s license and the car has basic liability insurance.
Waymo (which is owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet), Lyft, and General Motors have also taken advantage of Arizona’s laidback rules.
All of these companies, along with a few others, have stopped testing in the wake of this accident.
Anatomy of a Self-Driving Uber Car
Uber and Waymo use lidar technology, which uses lasers and radars, to guide self-driving cars.
The cars’ sensors gather data on the objects they sense and categorize them based on how the objects may behave. For example, the technology understands that a pedestrian may move, while a fence will remain in one place.
Who Takes the Blame in an Accident?
Without much legislation in place for driverless technology, there are a lot of unknowns when it comes to determining fault in the event of an accident.
Possible offenders might be the car company, the software company that created and installed the driverless technology, or the licensed passenger.
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