Uber’s Self-Driving Tests Suspended In Arizona After Car Killed Pedestrian

Posted: Mar 28 2018, 10:44am CDT | by , in Cars & Vehicles


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Uber’s Self-Driving Tests Suspended in Arizona After Car Killed Pedestrian
Photo: Gizmodo

Things aren't looking great for Uber after a recent deadly accident.

Tesla, BMW, Ford—these companies have all been testing self-driving cars for some time now in different environments. Some have even put them around racetracks at speed. But Uber and Google seem to have captured the public eye with their efforts to test cars in public.

Ride-sharing services have an immense amount to gain by eliminating the cost of human resources. But Uber's fatal accident with a pedestrian in Arizona has sparked outrage. The state's governor took almost immediate action to suspend Uber's testing efforts, but should we really be surprised by the accident, and is stopping testing the right call?

Unquestionable Failure to Comply

In the dash camera video released by police, you can see the Uber vehicle collide with a passing cyclist. Like all Uber test cars, this one carried a human safety operator intended to stop the car from doing anything reckless. That all sounds well and good until you consider the fact that self-driving cars are designed to replace humans because we inherently make mistakes.

The safety operator in the videos appears out-of-touch with the Uber SUV, probably because the Uber cars get it right the overwhelming majority of times. It is nearly impossible to remain vigilant in the face of such monotony.

Still, the incident puts lawmakers in an awkward place because it is the first time this has happened. No one's driving record will be impacted. Uber is unquestionably at fault, and the vehicle involved would have been removed from service regardless—however, Arizona governor Doug Ducey described the crash as “unquestionable failure to comply” with Arizona’s public safety expectations in testing.

Only a Matter of Time

Of course, Uber will comply with the governer’s mandate. But the big question is, will the ban be lifted at some point? Uber is no stranger to legal action. You can file a claim against the ride-sharing service quite easily if you so desire. But the point here is that these cars are safer than human drivers.

Uber first started testing self-driving cars on public roads in 2016. Competition with fellow tech giant Google has placed the Uber name at the top of media headlines, but there are around 20 competing companies—many from the automotive industry—with permits to carry out similar testing. Are we to expect that none of these cars will face problems?

Testing a new product is difficult and what we have in self-driving cars is something entirely new. You can do so much in a safe test environment, but eventually, you have to introduce the product to its real-world use case.

For self-driving cars that’s the open road. It’s unrealistic to think that this will be the last fatal crash an autonomous car is involved in. That doesn’t make it any less sad—but the end-goal here could be far fewer deaths on the road.

Of course, it makes sense to try and stop as many accidents as possible, however, if you think this will keep Uber from continuing to test, think again. This is a rat race, and the frightening truth is that even if we switched to the test cars today, we would probably see far fewer lives lost than we do with human drivers on the road.

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/56" rel="author">Scott Huntington</a>
Scott Huntington is a writer and journalist from Harrisburg PA who covered movies, tech, cars, and more. Check out his blog Off The Throttle or follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington.




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