The Uber vehicle was in autonomous mode, with an operator behind the wheel, when it hit a woman walking in the street in the city of Tempe late Sunday, according to the San Francisco-based company. The victim was hospitalized and later died from her injuries.
Uber said it had temporarily halted its use of self-driving cars for testing or customer rides in Tempe, Pittsburgh, Toronto, and San Francisco.Tempe is one of just two cities — along with Pittsburgh — where the ride-sharing firm has been using autonomous vehicles as part of its regular passenger.
The fatal accident has been deemed the first involving an autonomous vehicle and a pedestrian in the United States, a development that could deal a heavy blow to the new technology.
The police described Ms. Herzberg as a homeless woman, but did not immediately clarify whether she had any form of impairment prior to the accident. She was initially unconscious after the accident, but soon died by the time she arrived at the hospital.
Uber’s operators are supposed to take charge of an autonomous vehicle if it can’t negotiate a traffic situation and to drive manually in locations where the car is not programmed to drive itself.
The police said the vehicle that killed Ms. Herzberg has cameras and lidar to detect objects and another camera that focuses on occupants. Lidar is similar to a radar detector but uses light instead of radio waves to detect objects.
“It will definitely assist in the investigation, without a doubt,” Tempe police spokesperson Ronald Elcock said at the press briefing.
However, There are preliminary indications that the Uber vehicle may not be at fault in the accident, according to latest media reports.
The crash comes amidst growing concerns by some automotive experts that self-driving cars should not be backed by legislation as yet. The concerns intensified after a driver was killed while testing a Tesla Model S in an autonomous mode in Florida, U.S.
The vehicle failed to recognise a truck across the road ahead. U.S. investigators found that the vehicle was to blame for the accident and recommended that the technology needs more improvements to be safe for human use.