Uber suspends self-driving vehicle tests after pedestrian death

Tuesday Jan. 12 2016 file

“After years of pay cuts and exploitation New York City's ride-hail drivers can't make ends meet,” said IDG founder Jim Conigliaro Jr

Uber's testing was halted after police in a Phoenix suburb said one of its self-driving vehicles struck and killed a pedestrian overnight Sunday.

The incident involving the Uber vehicle and Ms Herzberg reminds us that innovation is fraught with pitfalls.

The union has been instrumental in the ongoing fight about proposed legislation making it easier to put self-driving cars on public roads.

Rafaela Vasquez was behind the wheel of the autonomous auto owned by Uber and told the San Francisco Chronicle, "it was like a flash", when the victim abruptly stepped out from a center median in front of the vehicle.

The crash in Arizona isn't the first involving an Uber autonomous test vehicle.

- Nevada was the first to authorize operation of autonomous vehicles in 2011.

Noel Sharkey, emeritus professor of artificial intelligence at the University of Sheffield, said: "Autonomous vehicles present us with a great future opportunity to make our roads safer". Republican Governor Doug Ducey reached out to Uber in 2016 after California regulators cracked down on the company over its failure to obtain testing permits. The agency will likely take several months to review evidence before issuing a report.

In a statement, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters said it was "deeply concerned" with how self-driving vehicles are being tested on public roads and highways.

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The accident could impact on public perceptions of the safety of autonomous vehicles as Akshay Anand, analyst at Kelley Blue Book has pointed out to US today: "It's clear is that this has the potential to severely impact public perceptions of autonomous technology, and should be handled with utmost prudence by regulators, authorities and the industry alike". Regardless of the outcome of this investigation, the crash is certain to reignite public debate about self-driving technology, its risks and the legal and ethical challenges involved. Audi-Volkswagen is the only foreign company with a provisional permit in South Korea.

"Our hearts go out to the victim's family", Uber wrote on Twitter.

The outcome of the investigations in Arizona will be pivotal for the companies racing to profit from robo-taxi services and automated delivery vehicles.

Neither she nor the driver are thought to have been under the influence of any drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash.

A ministry spokesman said of the Uber incident, "We will be following it closely, but it's too early to say how it will affect our approach to self-driving tests".

"Because we feel the incident may have an emotional effect on our test drivers, we have made a decision to temporarily pause our Chauffeur mode testing on public roads", Spokesman Brian Lyons said in an emailed statement to Bloomberg. By the end of 2017, their vehicles had driven over two million miles in autonomous mode, suggesting that their technology is progressing rapidly.

Temple police officers said that the crash, which hit a woman who later died of injuries at a hospital, occurred when the Uber vehicle was in autonomous mode with an operator behind the wheel.

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