Self-driving Uber kills Arizona woman, autonomous tests halted

An Uber car in autonomous mode struck an Arizona woman who walked in the street, Tempe PD said. Uber has responded with: "Our hearts go out to the victim's family."
Written by Jake Smith, Contributor
A pedestrian was struck and killed by an Uber car in autonomous mode, Tempe PD said. (File photo)

Uber is pausing its self-driving car tests in every city in the US after a female pedestrian was killed by an Uber car operating in autonomous mode late Sunday in Tempe, Ariz. It could be the first known death caused by an autonomous car operating on public roads.

Uber told ZDNet in a statement:

"Our hearts go out to the victim's family. We are fully cooperating with local authorities in their investigation of this incident."

Tempe police say an Uber car was in autonomous mode with a human safety driver at the wheel (as required by law) when it struck a pedestrian who walked into the street with her bike, according to Daisuke Wakabayashi of The New York Times.

Tempe police department statement on the Uber death:

"We wanted to provide an update to the Uber accident that occurred overnight on Mill Ave. just south of Curry Rd. The vehicle involved is one of Uber's self-driving vehicles. It was in autonomous mode at the time of the collision, with a vehicle operator behind the wheel. The vehicle was traveling northbound just south of Curry Rd. when a female walking outside of the crosswalk crossed the road from west to east when she was struck by the Uber vehicle. She was transported to a local area hospital where she passed away from her injuries. Her next of kin has not been notified yet so her name is not being released at this time. Uber is assisting and this is still an active investigation."

Uber is suspending tests in Tempe, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Toronto, the company confirmed.

NTSB on Monday said it will send a team to Tempe to investigate the Uber crash:

The Uber vehicle was part of the company's self-driving fleet of vehicles. The investigation will address the vehicle's interaction with the environment, other vehicles and vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and bicyclists.

The team will consist of Investigator-in-Charge Jennifer Morrison and three investigators who will examine vehicle factors, human performance and electronic recorders.

Update March 19, 12:58pm EST: Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi calls the news "incredibly sad" in a tweet: "Some incredibly sad news out of Arizona. We're thinking of the victim's family as we work with local law enforcement to understand what happened."

Update March 19, 3:55pm EST: Included NTSB investigation info.

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