Uber has announced it is suspending self-driving car tests in all North American cities following a fatal collision at the weekend.
According to BBC News, a 49-year-old woman was hit by a car and killed as she crossed the street in Tempe, Arizona.
The car was in autonomous mode, with a human ‘monitor’ behind the wheel. Police say the woman, Elaine Herzberg, had not been using a pedestrian crossing.
While self-driving cars have been involved in multiple collisions, it is thought to be the first time the technology has been been the cause of a fatality.
Dara Khosrowshahi said the death was ‘incredibly sad news’, while Anthony Foxx, who served as US secretary of transportation under Barack Obama, described it as a ‘wake up call to the entire [autonomous vehicle] industry and government to put a high priority on safety’.
Some incredibly sad news out of Arizona. We’re thinking of the victim’s family as we work with local law enforcement to understand what happened. https://t.co/cwTCVJjEuz
— dara khosrowshahi (@dkhos) March 19, 2018
In the US, a number of companies including Ford, General Motors, Tesla and Waymo are investing heavily in research to develop self-driving cars. More than a dozen states allow autonomous vehicles on the roads to some degree.
Uber started testing driverless cars in Pittsburgh in 2016 and has also been testing them in San Francisco, Toronto and the Phoenix area, which includes Tempe.
The death comes a year after Uber took its self-driving cars off the road following an accident that left a Volvo SUV on its side in Arizona. The programme was later reinstated.
The UK Government has repeatedly stated its intent to be at the forefront of developing driverless technology.
Earlier this month, it commissioned a review to look at how current laws will need to be adjusted to reflect the fact self-driving vehicles of the future will not have a ‘driver’ – while also considering some of the criminal offences involved.
Driverless cars could also be tested on UK roads for the first time in 2018 – as a result of new regulations set out in the November 2017 budget. Further to that, small convoys of ‘partially driverless lorries’ will undergo trials on British roads by the end of 2018.