A Self-Driving Car — An Uber Vehicle — Has Killed A Pedestrian For The First Time

Senior Contributor
03.19.18 20 Comments

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Self-driving cars, or at least more autonomous cars, are inevitable. But they’re also still experimental technology, to some degree, and as they proliferate in American life, inevitably there are going to be problems. Sadly, the most expected problem has arrived: A pedestrian was struck and killed in Arizona by a self-driving car.

The vehicle, operated by Uber in Tempe, AZ, struck an unidentified woman in the early morning hours, reports the New York Times. It appears she was walking outside the crosswalk, and the car was operating autonomously with a human at the wheel. Unfortunately, the driver was unable to see the pedestrian or stop the car in time. Uber has now temporarily off-lined its autonomous car tests in Tempe, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Toronto while it cooperates with authorities on the fatality.

The main question will be just how this happened. One of the fundamental problems with self-driving cars is that they’re robots, and robots don’t tend to handle sudden, rapid changes in their environment well. Advocates for autonomous cars tend to blame user error, but the simple truth is the technology that helps humans understand robot reactions, and vice versa, is still very much a work in progress. Without keeping that in mind, this won’t be the last time a self-driving car is a potential risk.

(via New York Times)

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