In Pennsylvania, as well as other states, Uber has pulled its autonomous cars and SUVs off the roads and suspended its testing program. Although one day, such technology may result in safer roads, a pair of highly-publicized car accidents has shown that the technology may not be ready for use on public streets. Until the technology has improved and better regulation is in place, state governments may be reluctant to allow such testing to continue.
In March, two people were killed in two separate accidents involving semi-autonomous vehicles. In Tempe Arizona, on March 18, a woman was walking her bike across a street when she was struck and killed by an autonomous vehicle that Uber was testing in the city. Although the vehicle was on autonomous mode, a safety operator was in the driver’s seat of the vehicle. The safety operator had the ability to override autonomous operation but failed to do so in time to prevent the accident. Uber has already settled the case.
Tesla has also come under scrutiny. On March 23, one of the company’s SUVs was operating in semiautonomous mode near Mountain View, California, when it collided with a barrier on the highway. The driver of the SUV was behind the wheel but failed to react in time to avert the accident. The driver died from injuries sustained in the crash.
These accidents illustrate that autonomous driving technology must be further refined and that humans seem too quick to rely on such technology. Unfortunately, this kind of complacency can clearly have tragic consequences. Until the technology – and regulation thereof – has reached a place where the public can be assured of safety, victims of accidents involving autonomous or semiautonomous vehicles must rely on the civil courts to send a message to the manufacturers and operators of such vehicles.
Source: Philly Voice, “Uber suspends autonomous vehicle testing in Pennsylvania, other states,” Michael Tanenbaum, Mar. 27, 2018