Uber Self-Driving Car Technology Testing witnesses Temporary Halt Post-Fatal Accident in Tempe, Arizona


Uber’s self-driving sport utility vehicles, whose pilot model is displayed at Uber Advanced Technologies Center, Pittsburgh, recently struck and compromised a pedestrian, Elaine Herzberg, in Tempe, Arizona. The pedestrian, aged 49, was walking a bicycle, crossing a busy road, when the Uber’s autonomous vehicle, travelling at the speed of 38 miles/hr. struck and killed her instantly.

Uber Self-Driving Car Accident to result into Temporary Halt of Testing Activities on Public Roads

This self-driving Uber car crash has prompted the company to halt the testing of driverless vehicles on the public roads temporarily across Toronto, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, and Phoenix. Herzberg’s death is first recorded incident caused by self-driving car, which has raised queries regarding efficacy of such vehicles to ride autonomously on busy roads. Relying on the combination of data systems and sensors for locating and avoiding obstacles, Uber’s self-driving vehicle typically includes combination of LiDAR sensors, GPS, and cameras.

It is quite possible that in the Uber self-driving car accident, the vehicle’s cameras couldn’t navigate the pedestrian, given the time at which the accident occurred, local time 10 P.M., however the radar must not have been affected from the darkness, stated Raghunath Rajkumar, professor at Carnegie Mellon University. Mr. Rajkumar has led Carnegie Mellon’s efforts toward the development of autonomous cars, such as Boss SUV, which won at 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge. He further adds the Uber autonomous vehicle’s failure in locating the pedestrian to be puzzling, as such vehicles are programmed to constantly seek obstacles, even in jaywalking scenario.

Litigation from Accident to Pit Ride-Hailing Service against Technology Suppliers

Uber’s policy of involving a human driver onboard its autonomous vehicles implies an interesting aspect of the incident, according to Subbarao Kambhampati, Professor at School of Computing, Informatics and Decision Systems Engineering of Arizona State University. He added that unlike infelicitously named Autopilot of Tesla, which implies a glorified driver’s assistant, Uber self-driving car technology is supposed to be completely autonomous. According to legal experts, litigation arising from the accident, first fatality involving fully autonomous vehicle is likely to pit a ride-hailing service against the manufacturers and technology suppliers. This may further lead to confidential indemnification agreements with regard to legal shielding of companies developing autonomous vehicle systems.

According to news report, Uber has been perceiving sale of its autonomous tech to the third-party companies, such as Toyota. Rumors have been in the air for a while, regarding Uber’s negotiation of a deal with Toyota, for installing self-driving systems in minivans of the company. This move is considered to be Uber’s latest in longstanding competition with Waymo, Google, in establishing supremacy in race toward developing efficient self-driving vehicles. Waymo on the other hand has already proved its mettle by launching completely autonomous taxis in Phoenix, and is further eyeing testing of self-driving trucks. Self-inefficient in realizing its aims, Uber is seeking partnership with larger automakers to conjure its technology to roads.

About the Author

Abhishek Budholiya

Abhishek Budholiya is a tech blogger, digital marketing pro, and has contributed to numerous tech magazines. Currently, as a technology and digital branding consultant, he offers his analysis on the tech market research landscape. His forte is analysing the commercial viability of a new breakthrough, a trait you can see in his writing. When he is not ruminating about the tech world, he can be found playing table tennis or hanging out with his friends.

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