On Sunday, March 18th, 2018 at approximately ten in the evening, a 49-year-old woman was struck and killed by an autonomous car operated by Uber in Arizona. The car, a Volvo XC90 sport utility vehicle outfitted with a sensor system, was in autonomous mode at the time of the incident. There was a human safety driver at the wheel, but the car was not carrying any passengers. The vehicle was going about 40 miles an hour (speed limit was 45-miles-an-hour) when it struck the woman who was walking her bicycle away from a pedestrian crossing. A video shows that the safety driver was clearly distracted and looking down from the road. It also appears that both of the safety driver’s hands were not hovering above the steering wheel, which is what most backup drivers are instructed to do, since it allows them to take control of the car in the case of an emergency.
Local police officials said the driver was not impaired. The self-driving car, however, should have detected the woman crossing the road. After the incident, Uber suspended their driverless vehicle program in Arizona, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto.
An initial investigation by local police indicated that the pedestrian might have been at fault. According to the report, the woman appears to have come “from the shadows,” stepping off the median into the roadway, and ending up in the path of the car while jaywalking across the street. The National Transportation Safety Board has opened an investigation into the incident.