As our readers know, we have been keeping an eye on developments in the driverless car technology. As the reality of these vehicles grows closer and closer, it is likely that eventually we will all encounter these vehicles on the road. But the technology is not yet perfected and accidents have happened. Uber has been testing driverless vehicles over the recent past in several cities. There is always a driver behind the wheel, but the vehicle is driving on its own. Uber halted the program after a tragic pedestrian crash in Arizona that took the life of a woman as she walked across the street at night. She was not in a crosswalk at the time she was struck. Although there was a driver behind the wheel of the vehicle, the driver did not apparently see her in time to stop from hitting her. Because of this tragedy, Uber has been prohibited from autonomous testing in Arizona. This accident and others will likely lead to more intervention on the legal and regulatory side and call for more regulatory management for driving safety and implementation of these autonomous systems.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has issued a report on this accident and has determined in interviews with Uber that the Volvo SUV actually did register the presence of something in the road six seconds prior to impact. Ironically, the vehicle’s automatic emergency braking system was not engaged at the time of the fatal crash. It would have been up to the driver to stop the vehicle. Uber has said it disengages the emergency braking system so that the car doesn’t drive erratically. That decision proved fatal in this situation.