Uber Self-Driving Cars: Fatal Accident in Arizona Halts Testing of Technology
In the world of cars, autonomous technology has been one of the most significant — and fiercely debated — developments in recent years. Whether you’re talking about cars that drive themselves with little-to-no input from the driver or semi-autonomous features like backup cameras or lane departure warnings, it’s technology that has revolutionized the way we get around. Since so many car accidents are caused by human error, the idea is that using technology to reduce the possibility of human error can reduce car accidents, prevent injuries, and save lives. The question is whether or not that technology is truly effective and safe to use yet.
Several companies have been testing self-driving cars in several states, including California, Michigan, and Arizona. But after 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg died after being hit by an autonomous car being tested by Uber in Arizona, it became the first pedestrian fatality involving a self-driving car. News of this accident reignited the debate over whether or not the technology is safe to be tested on the open roads yet.
Herzberg was hit at about 10:00 PM on March 18, 2018 as she tried to cross an eight-lane road while walking with her bike. At the time of the accident, the car was in autonomous mode, traveling above the posted speed limit, and with a test driver behind the wheel. The car did not make an effort to slow down or otherwise avoid Herzberg and a video was later released showing that the driver was distracted in the seconds leading up to the accident. Jalopnik also noted that Uber had been using several testing practices that are different from those used by other companies, such as only having one driver in self-driving cars instead of two and using cars with fewer safety sensors than other vehicles being tested.
Shortly after the accident, Uber announced they would stop testing their self-driving vehicles and later decided not to reapply for a permit to continue testing cars in the state of California. Even though the car involved in the accident was a Volvo, Toyota also announced they would suspend testing their driverless cars in the United States, saying they were concerned about the “emotional effect” the accident in Arizona would have on the drivers testing the cars.
As autonomous driving technology becomes more widely available, there’s a lot of debate over how the law will apply to self-driving cars. As far as testing autonomous cars goes, some states have more lenient rules than others, which is why certain states are so popular with the companies testing them. But if a person is hurt or killed by a self-driving car, as was the case here, who is liable? Uber has already reached a settlement with the family of Herzberg over the accident. If you’re involved in a car accident involving a self-driving car, be sure to contact a car accident lawyer for help. Since the laws regarding self-driving cars are so unclear, it will be important to have someone on your side with a strong understanding of the existing laws. There’s also a chance you would have to deal with lawyers or insurance companies representing the manufacturer of the autonomous vehicle, which a lawyer will be able to help you handle.