Transportation giant Uber has decided to suspend self-driving car tests in all North American cities following the death of a woman.
A 49-year-old woman in Tempe, Arizona, was struck by a car and killed as she crossed the street.
Although self-driving cars have previously been involved in accidents, the incident is believed to be the first fatality involving a pedestrian and an autonomous vehicle. The incident took place on Sunday night and there was a human monitor behind the wheel.
Police said the woman, who has been identified as Elaine Herzberg, had not been using a pedestrian crossing at the time of the accident.
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said the death was “incredibly sad news” while the company said it was fully cooperating with Tempe Police and local authorities as they investigate the incident.
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. https://t.co/cwTCVJjEuz
— dara khosrowshahi (@dkhos) March 19, 2018
Following a preliminary investigation, Ronald Elcock, the police chief of Tempe said the ride-sharing company is likely not at fault for the accident.
He stressed that it “would have been difficult to avoid this collision in any kind of mode based on how she came from the shadows right into the roadway”.
The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board said they were sending teams to Tempe to investigate.
Uber started testing self-driving cars in Pittsburgh in 2016 and has since tested vehicles in San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Phoenix. A year ago an accident in Arizona led to the temporary suspension of the programme.