Uber Self-Driving Car Involved in Fatal Collision

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A tragedy has occurred.

One of Uber's self-driving cars, which have been being tested on public roadways for years, was involved in a fatal collision with a pedestrian.

This is believed to be the first fatal incident involving an autonomous vehicle.

Uber Self-Driving Car

This is heartbreaking.

Tempe police report that 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg was walking her bicycle across a street on Sunday night.

A self-driving Uber SUV, which the company has been testing for a couple of years on public roads, reportedly struck and killed her.

The vehicle in question was a Volvo XC90 SUV.

Police also report that Rafael Vasquez, a 44-year-old test driver for Uber, was behind the wheel.

So far, it appears to investigators that the vehicle was traveling 40 miles per hour within a 35 mile-per-hour zone.

The problem, it appears, was that police say that they've found no evidence that the car slowed down.

Uber has temporarily suspended testing in the United States and in Canada while they address any issues.

Uber Self-Driving Car Image

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi tweeted out his condolences.

"Some incredibly sad news out of Arizona."

To be clear, he's talking about the tragedy, not about the bad PR.

"We’re thinking of the victim’s family as we work with local law enforcement to understand what happened."

Uber itself tweeted:

"Our hearts go out to the victim’s family. We’re fully cooperating with @TempePolice and local authorities as they investigate this incident."

This is definitely a tragedy, and we hope that they can get to the bottom of this.

Uber Condolences

Multiple companies are in the self-driving car business. Most notably, Google's self-driving car company, Waymo, has gained a lot of attention in recent years.

In many ways, the tech is much safer than a human driver.

These cars are not driving blindly based upon streetmaps -- they are equipped with sensors.

People have described sitting in what was once the "driver's seat" of one and wondering why it hadn't accelerated after stopping for a stop sign, only to see a bicyclist ride out across the street from behind a bush.

These cars can sometimes "see" better than humans.

In this case, however, something terrible went wrong. And Uber hopes to find out just what that will be.

Uber Self-Driving Car Picture

Autonomous vehicles are the future of travel.

Right now they're being tested, and they're still usually very safe -- this is the first known fatality from an autonomous vehicle.

When the tech is complete, these will be cars that don't get distracted, or sleepy, or drunk. Autonomous vehicles will mean that New Year's Eve will one day be a safe night to drive.

This tech will also give increased mobility to people whose disabilities prevent them from driving.

At present, the technology is very good dealing with other cars, particularly on the highway. But the tech is still being tested in multiple states in the US and in Canada.

In addition to current issues with precipitation like rain and snow, which can also cause problems for human drivers, these programs sometimes find pedestrians difficult to predict.

One day, the idea of a person manually driving a car will be a bit like the idea of a person riding a horse. Sure, it happens, and we all know some people who have done it, but ... it's odd.

Though, to be fair, people riding on horses don't cause over 1 million fatalities a year. Human-driven cars do that.

Uber Self-Driving Car Photo

In the mean time, however, this woman died. That's a tragedy, and we're sure that her loved ones want answers even more than the people working on the tech.

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office will determine if any charges should be filed, and which charges those might be -- and against whom.

They test to work out bugs, but they'd never have taken the cars on public roads if they had believed that the cars were dangerous. Whatever alleged flaw may have led to this heartbreaking collision will surely be fixed.

This may have been the first-ever fatal accident caused by an autonomous vehicle, but let's hope that it will be the last.

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