Fatal Accident Involving Autonomous Uber Car Halts Testing in U.S. and Toronto

Uber has halted their autonomous driving tests after a fatal accident.

The ride-hailing company said today that a woman was killed by a self-driving SUV that was using their autonomous technology. The accident reportedly occurred late last night. Uber has suspended its autonomous vehicle program across the U.S. and Toronto.

The accident happened in Tempe, a suburb near Phoenix, and it marks the first-ever fatality from a self-driving vehicle. A human operator was behind the wheel, but the car was operating in autonomous mode.

“The vehicle was traveling northbound … when a female walking outside of the crosswalk crossed the road from west to east when she was struck by the Uber vehicle,” local police said in a statement.

Uber is also assisting in the investigation. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Administration, as well as the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), said they would send investigative teams to look at and probe the accident.

“Our hearts go out to the victim’s family,” an Uber representative said in a statement. “We are fully cooperating with local authorities in their investigation of this incident.”

The car involved in the collision was a Volvo, and it collided with a bike, according to reports. Late last year, Volvo signed a deal with Uber to provide them with 24,000 autonomous vehicles by the end of 2021.

In September 2017, the NTSB minorly faulted Tesla for a fatal road accident involving one of their semi-autonomous Model S. The accident occurred in an area that was not recommended for autopilot—in spite of those warnings, the car’s software was allowed to go past 90 miles per hour. Though it was ultimately the driver’s fault, Tesla was still forced to reconsider their tech and approach new problems.

Though this is a tragic accident, it is an instance that may begin to occur more as companies like Uber, Waymo, GM and others further develop their self-driving technology. Though autonomous cars are, in theory, safer—more than 90 per cent of accidents in the U.S. are due to driver error, and technology like Waymo’s “soft cars” could help save lives—accidents will still occur, especially if there are traditional drivers on the road.