Uber autonomous car kills pedestrian, a first in the self-driving industry

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A self-driving car operated by Uber struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona on Sunday night. A human driver was behind the wheel who could have overridden the autonomous mode at any time. Uber has suspended autonomous vehicle testing in Tempe, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto after the incident (New York Times). 

While self-driving cars have been in accidents before, later investigation found that the autonomous technology was not at fault. By striking a pedestrian, who always has the right of way, this death marks a potential blow to the industry that has struggled to operate in the unpredictable traffic of city roadways.

Uber has not said whether Monday’s accident will affect its development of self-driving trucks, which already haul commercial goods on non-urban roads in Arizona (New York Times). The simplicity of rural highways are ideal for a technology that thrives on monotonous conditions.

(Read more from WikiTribune on how trucking will be the first casualty of self-driving cars).

Arizona has been an important testing ground for self-driving technology. The state allows autonomous cars to be tested without a human behind the wheel, (New York Times) and an arid climate that is perfect for car sensors that struggle with rain and snow.

Uber previously suspended self-driving testing in March 2017, after a vehicle-on-vehicle collision also in Tempe, Arizona. The autonomous car was ruled not at fault by police. Uber resumed testing self-driving cars less than a month later (Washington Post). 

Help us report on self-driving technology. Contribute through EDIT STORY, or offer suggestions via TALK. 

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