Yesterday a woman was struck by an autonomous Uber vehicle in Tempe, Arizona. She later died of her injuries in the hospital.
Photo: Eric Risberg, (AP)
The deadly collision – reported by ABC15 and later confirmed to Gizmodo by Uber and Tempe police – took place around 10PM local time at the intersection Mill Avenue and Curry Road, both of which are multi-lane roads. Autonomous vehicle developers often test drive at night, during storms and in other challenging conditions to help their vehicles learn to navigate in a variety of environments.
According to Tempe PD, the car was in autonomous mode at the time of the incident, with a vehicle operator sitting behind the wheel. The self-driving vehicle had one operator and no passengers, Uber said.
Police have identified the victim as 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg. She was crossing the street at the time she was struck.
The Uber crash is the first known fatal collision between a self-driving car and a pedestrian. A driver was killed in 2016 when his Tesla crashed into a truck while in Autopilot mode – the first known fatal crash involving a semi-autonomous vehicle. An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board found that the driver was warned several times to keep his hands on the wheel before the Tesla crash.
The NTSB confirmed to Gizmodo that it is investigating Uber’s crash in Arizona.
“Our hearts go out to the victim’s family. We are fully cooperating with local authorities in their investigation of this incident,” an Uber spokesperson said in a statement.
Uber’s autonomous vehicle pilot program was briefly suspended around this time last year following a crash, also in Tempe, though that incident did not result in serious injuries. In December 2016, one of Uber’s self-driving cars ran a red light in San Francisco – an incident that Uber initially attributed to human error, but was later revealed to have been caused by the vehicle. Following this deadly event, the program has been suspended yet again.
“Some incredibly sad news out of Arizona,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi tweeted. “We’re thinking of the victim’s family as we work with local law enforcement to understand what happened.”