According to a recent report by the American Automobile Association, 73% of Americans consider themselves…
On March 18th 2018, Elaine Herzberg was struck and killed by a vehicle while walking her bike across a four-lane road in Tempe, Arizona. This in of itself – although tragic – is not unusual; the unfortunate reality is that an average of 6,000 pedestrians die per year on US roads. Yet, what makes this tragedy unique is the unprecedented circumstance surrounding the collision: the car that struck Elaine Herzberg had no driver.
This marks the first ever fatality caused by a fully autonomous vehicle*, and it couldn’t have occurred at a more pivotal time for those seeking to develop and test self-driving technology, nor for the lawmakers tasked with legislating new traffic regulations to account for the possibility of driverless roads in the future.
In fact, just days prior to the tragedy, companies Uber and Waymo had written to senators urging them to put through legislation that would ease up regulatory hurdles and poise self-driving cars to hit the roads across the country by as early as next year.
Arizona governor Doug Ducey referred to the incident as “an unquestionable failure to comply” with his state’s expected commitment to public safety, and in response has suspended Uber’s ability to test driverless vehicles in the state of Arizona – an ideal location, due to the dry and temperate climate.
— David Shepardson (@davidshepardson) March 27, 2018
Although the American Automobile Association recently reported that the public’s perception of the safety of self-driving vehicles is gradually improving, this death represents the first major obstacle in convincing both the public and lawmakers that this new technology is safe for American roads.
*It is interesting to note that the first general automobile fatality also involved a woman crossing the road.