A female from Tempe, Arizona is the first death from being struck by an autonomous vehicle. She died shortly after being hit by an Uber-operated car on a public road.
The Uber car was driving 38 mph in a 35 mph zone late Sunday night. According to reports, the self-driving car did not brake. The woman was found unconscious at the scene at taken to the hospital where she later died of her injuries.
"Our hearts go out to the victim's family," said Uber spokeswoman Sarah Abboud in a public statement. "We are fully cooperating with local authorities in their investigation of this incident."
Shortly after reports of the death surfaced, Uber suspended testing of its self-driving cars in Tempe, San Francisco, Pittsburg, and Toronto, Canada.
According to preliminary investigations, Uber might not be at fault in the death. The San Francisco Chronicle reported comments from Tempe chief of police Sylvia Moir. Moir told the newspaper:
"The driver said it was like a flash, the person walked out in front of them. His first alert to the collision was the sound of the collision."
The Tempe police have not released the videos as they're currently being used in the ongoing investigation. However, Moir told the Chronicle that "it's very clear [from the videos] it would have been difficult to avoid this collision in any kind of mode (autonomous or human-driven) based on how she came from the shadows right into the roadway."
Moir continued by saying "It is dangerous to cross roadways in the evening hour when well-illuminated, managed crosswalks are available."
The death has an international impact, sparking discussion in the United Kingdom and Australia. New South Wales Roads Minister Melinda Pavey recently announced an expansion of driverless technology in one of Sydney's most popular areas. However, the death in Tempe is causing some leaders to hesitate in pursuing the technology. The NSW plan won't be run by Uber. Rather, the trial will be operated by Transurban. The toll road company will use smart cars to test the technology's reliablility, but have a human in the driver's seat at all times.
Interesting Engineering will continue to update this story as more information becomes available.