With several car crashes and one recent fatality, Uber has halted its autonomous car program. Safety officials fear that autonomous technology is moving too fast for the safety of drivers on American roadways.
Are Self-Driving Cars Safe?
The recent death of a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona by an Uber autonomous car will likely impact the development of autonomous vehicles in the near future. Although there have been several self-driving car crashes, this is the first death directly related to autonomous technology. The victim, a 49-year-old female, was struck by an Uber self-driving Volvo SUV as she crossed the street. She was taken to a local hospital for injuries but later died. Uber officials confirmed that the SUV was operating in autonomous mode at the time of the accident, but the driver was present in the vehicle as a safety backup. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has opened an investigation and dispatched a special crash team to investigate the fatality.
Over the past few years, the NTSB has followed accidents involving autonomous vehicles very closely. Uber, as well as General Motors, has been testing their self-driving cars on Arizona roadways for years. Although current testing requires a human backup driver behind the wheel for safety, Uber has had several incidents in the past. In 2016, Uber suspended its self-driving car program after one of its autonomous vehicles was involved in a high-impact crash. It was later determined that the self-driving vehicle was not responsible for the car accident and there were no injuries, but the crash raised many concerns with law enforcement and safety officials.
Arizona was one of the first states to approve road testing for autonomous vehicles, so there is a lot of support from state officials. Autonomous technology offers many benefits for drivers and communities. Self-driving cars are currently being tested on roadways in several states including Arizona, California, Nevada, and Washington, but consumers have expressed concerns about safety. Studies show that over 50 percent of drivers say they would not currently purchase a self-driving vehicle until further safety testing is done. The recent death of the Tempe pedestrian has halted Uber’s testing with autonomous cars, and it’s likely to impact the future of autonomous cars on the roads until safety concerns are addressed.