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Safety in peril: Self-driving Uber car fatally mows down woman pedestrian

The proponents of autonomous commuting technology sound pretty confident about the safety of such vehicles whenever questions are raised about the same. Moreover, self-driving pioneers like Uber and Google’s Waymo claim their initiatives would help reduce road accidents significantly, as human error is blamed for most road causalities.

No vehicle, be it autonomous or one with a man behind the wheel, can be 100% safe because a lot depends on the behavior of other road users. The companies claim the recent accidents involving their robocars were not caused by the vehicles, but by the human drivers of other vehicles.

Uber self-driving car
Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

In what could be the first fatal accident involving an autonomous vehicle, a woman was hit by a test vehicle today. The driverless car, operated by Uber, knocked down the pedestrian while she was crossing the street in Tempe. The incident made the ride-hailing company to discontinue all the tests on its self-driving car fleet.

Though the operator of the vehicle was in the driver’s seat when the mishap occurred, he could not do much as the car was in the self-driving mode. The woman died at the hospital where she was admitted with fatal injuries.

This accident came as a heavy blow to Uber, which had only recently settled a long-drawn legal battle with Waymo. A year ago, Uber was forced to pull its fleet following an accident involving one of its driverless vehicles during the test.

The incident made the ride-hailing company to discontinue all the tests on its self-driving car fleet

The self-driving technology suffered the first major setback nearly two years ago when entrepreneur Joshua Brown died in a crash while riding a Tesla Model S in autopilot mode.

The accident occurred after the vehicle’s sensors failed to detect a white tractor moving on the road against a clear sky, casting serious doubts over the reliability of the technology. While soft-pedaling the accident, the company acknowledged that the autopilot technology was still evolving and required the driver to be attentive during the journey.