A pedestrian was recently struck and fatally injured by an Uber self-driving vehicle when she attempted to cross a street in Tempe, Arizona with her bicycle. According to police, the 49-year old woman was jaywalking with her bicycle at approximately 10:00 p.m. The Uber vehicle was operated by self-driving technology, but also had an emergency driver ready to take control of the vehicle, if necessary. The emergency driver was not able to brake in time to avoid the accident and the autonomous system failed to detect the woman as well.
What Went Wrong?
In this pedestrian accident, some experts say that the SUV’s sensors failed to distinguish the woman from cars or other objects on the road, while others blame inadequate lidar sensors for the crash. Lidar, a safety system that uses laser light pulses, radar, and cameras to detect hazards on the road, is used in self-driving vehicles to help avoid accidents. According to former Uber employees, the new self-driving vehicle has only one roof-mounted lidar sensor, compared to seven lidar sensors on their older models, which left a blind zone around the SUV’s perimeter.
Who Is Responsible?
Although there were other crashes involving a self-driving vehicle, this is the first one involving a pedestrian fatality. The cause of the accident is still unclear, and it is currently being investigated by local police and federal safety officials. Uber’s decision to use only one lidar sensor also remains under review and it is uncertain whether the company will be held responsible for the fatal pedestrian accident.
This case has brought attention to the lack of clear laws and policies regarding self-driving technology in the United States. Other countries have begun to implement more laws and policies regarding self-driving vehicles; the United Kingdom is conducting a three-year review before allowing self-driving cars on the road and India’s transport minister has vowed to ban self-driving vehicles to save jobs.
The Future of Self-Driving Vehicles
This case has also raised concerns about cybersecurity. Self-driving vehicle manufacturers will have to consider the dangers posed by hackers. Last year, researchers in China were able to make objects invisible to a car’s navigation system by jamming various sensors. In a recent survey of 1,000 licensed drivers over the age of 18, 61 percent reported that cyber protection is important while only 41 percent said they were confident that autonomous vehicle manufacturers would be able to protect against cyberattacks.
The chair of the National Transportation Board says he is very optimistic that self-driving technology will reduce the number of car accidents. Ford’s CEO announced that they will have thousands of autonomous vehicles offering urban car sharing and ride-hailing services by 2021. For now, Uber has suspended its self-driving tests in four cities and it remains to be seen whether car companies or state regulators will halt the introduction of self-driving vehicles to public roads.
Columbia Car Accident Lawyers at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. Provide Experienced Representation to Those Injured In South Carolina Car Accidents
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