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Uber Self-Driving Car Kills Arizona Pedestrian

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Uber’s self-driving car in Tempe, Arizona, struck and killed a pedestrian Sunday night (March 18), marking the first known fatality of a pedestrian by an autonomous vehicle.

The Wall Street Journal stated that following the accident, Uber temporarily removed its vehicles from the streets of Tempe, San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Toronto — cities in which it has been testing the new technology. A spokeswoman for Uber told the paper the company is investigating the accident and is cooperating with authorities in the matter.

Police in Tempe told the WSJ that Uber’s vehicle, which had a human operator at the wheel to step in if need be, collided with Elaine Herzberg, a 49-year-old woman, while she was crossing outside the crosswalk. She later succumbed to her injuries, the police statement said. The National Transportation Safety Board and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) both said they would be sending teams to Tempe to investigate what happened. The NHTSA has been in contact with all the parties involved, including Uber, state and local law enforcement and Volvo, the car company Uber tapped for its self-driving efforts.

“Some incredibly sad news out of Arizona,” wrote Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi on Twitter on Monday (March 19), according to the WSJ. “We’re thinking of the victim’s family as we work with local law enforcement to understand what happened.”

Meanwhile, Volvo said in a statement that it’s aware of the incident and that its thoughts are with the family of the woman.

The accident will most likely prompt calls for more regulation of self-driving vehicles as tests continue all over the country. Congress, aiming to encourage both safety and further innovation, has been eyeing legislation that would remove some of the regulatory questions surrounding the deployment of these self-driving cars.

That bill was stalled in the Senate in 2018 following concerns about the safety of self-driving cars. Uber started testing autonomous cars in Tempe in 2017 after losing its license in California to test the vehicles because it didn’t get a permit to operate them. Uber has since obtained a permit, noted the report.

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