A self-driving Uber car struck and killed a woman in Tempe, Arizona Sunday evening. Studio East/Getty Images photo.
Toyota says it will pause testing of autonomous vehicles after fatality
On Sunday evening, a pedestrian was killed after she was struck by an Uber autonomous vehicle in Tempe, Arizona.
Following the death of Elaine Herzberg, Arizona officials say they do not see a need to tighten state rules in place for testing self-driving.
Uber said on Monday that it will suspend its own program.
Toyota says it will pause testing of its autonomous cars on public roads after the woman’s death and, according to Reuters, other automakers and tech companies are considering if they should suspend their self-driving vehicle testing.
According to Toyota, it is concerned for the “emotional effect” the incident could have on its test drivers.
Arizona has looser regulations for testing of self-driving cars than neighbouring states, including California. In 2015, an executive order signed by Governor Doug Ducey opened up testing of technology for autonomous vehicles without interference by the state legislature.
“We believe we have enough in our laws right now to regulate automobiles,” Kevin Biesty told Reuters. Biesty is Arizona’s director for policy and communications at the state’s department of transportation. He added “There will be issues that the legislature will have to address in the future as these become more widespread.”
Biesty says the Arizona DOT is is waiting for a federal investigation by safety regulators to wrap up before the state makes any final decisions. According to Biesty, Arizona’s autonomous vehicle oversight committee has not planned any meetings or actions.
The mayor of Tempe, Mark Mitchell, did publicly support Uber’s decision to suspend its testing program until “this event is fully examined and understood.” According to Reuters, the mayor’s office did not ask other automakers to suspend their testing in the city.
Autonomous vehicle analysts and experts say the death involving Uber could slow the company’s progress towards the use of self-driving cars.
In a blog post on Tuesday, Richard Windsor, technology analyst for London-based Edison Investment Research said “What this incident indicates is that the state of autonomous driving (and especially Uber) is very far from where it needs to be to become market-ready”
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