Fatal Self-Driving Uber Car Crash Threatens to Put Brakes on New Technology
Self-driving cars are hailed as the future of automobiles. However, a fatal self-driving Uber car crash raises new questions about the technology.
An Uber self-driving taxi hit a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. The crash claimed the life of Elaine Herzberg earlier this month. There was a human safety driver at the wheel of the autonomous car, but the car was carrying no passengers.
In the aftermath of the fatal self-driving Uber car crash, CBS News noted increased skepticism about autonomous vehicles.
The report noted how even before the deadly self-driving car accident in Tempe, Arizona, a majority of Americans were concerned about the technology.
Self-driving cars are meant to make the roads of America safer. Approximately 94 percent of fatal accidents are caused by human error.
Research by the Pew Research Center found about 54 percent of adults said they were somewhat or very worried about the prospect of driverless vehicles. The study was conducted in May 2017. About 40 percent of respondents were at least partly enthusiastic about the technology.
While many of us take Uber and Lyft services in Hampton Roads and elsewhere, few people would want to be passengers in a self-driving vehicle. A majority of U.S. adults (56 percent) responded that they would not personally want to ride in a driverless car if they had the opportunity, compared with 44 percent who would.
Female respondents were more concerned about the technology than men. The most common reasons cited by survey respondents who said they would not personally want to ride in a self-driving car were a fear of giving up control to a machine (42 percent) and other specific safety concerns (30 percent).
The death in Arizona, believed to be the first fatal incident involving a pedestrian and a self-driving car, has made that prospect less likely in the near future. Uber announced it would suspend the testing of driverless vehicles in four cities where the technology is being piloted – Tempe, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto in Canada.
Driverless car technology has made major strides in recent years but the fatal self-driving Uber car crash serves as a reminder of the limitations.
The accident in Arizona may slow down a timetable that led self-driving enthusiasts to claim driverless cars would be widely available by 2020. Lawmakers may also require more stringent regulations going forward.
Jessica Caldwell of Edmunds.com told CBS the self-driving car advocates face a massive challenge to win over the public. She said:
“Most people are still highly skeptical about the safety of autonomous vehicles, so this kind of tragedy is a huge setback. Automakers will need to convince consumers that the benefits of this new technology will outweigh the risks.”
In a recent blog, John Cooper of Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers raised another concern about self-driving technology. The idea of somebody controlling our cars and not being in control is distinctly un-American.
In America, many people don’t want the government or anyone else telling us what to do. It’s a leap of faith to imagine we’re going to like the idea as Americans that Google, Uber or whoever is going to decide how our cars are going to be operated.
Notwithstanding reports, the Uber accident is not the first fatality to be caused by a self-driving car.
Joshua Brown, a 40-year-old man from Ohio, died from injuries he suffered when a tractor-trailer made a left turn in front of his self-driving Tesla on a highway near Williston in Florida in 2016. He was watching Harry Potter at the time of the wreck.
The car in question was not totally self-driving but it was equipped with an “autopilot” system intended to allow Teslas to cruise along roads without their drivers having to brake, accelerate or steer. The car was meant to stay in its lane and to brake suddenly when traffic ahead came to a halt.
After the death, Tesla suggested neither the car’s systems nor the driver could see the tractor trailer’s white side because of the “brightly lit sky” behind it.
Accidents involving autonomous vehicles could lead to new regulations limiting testing of these cars on public roads.
The fatal incident in Arizona is being investigated by both the National Transportation Safety Board and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
CBS reported this fatality is likely to strengthen opposition in the Senate to a bill the House has backed that would allow driverless vehicle testing in all states without adhering to all state safety rules.
The focus is now likely to shift to making sure these cars are safe before further testing takes place. As Virginia personal injury lawyers this fatal self-driving Uber car crash raises more alarming questions. The prospect of trials in Virginia before these safety issues are ironed out is a worrying one.
If you or a loved one has been hurt on the highways of Virginia, please call us at (757) 455-0077.