The first fatal auto-pedestrian accident involving a self-driving car employed by Uber made headlines this past week, and it has propelled the national conversation on autonomous-vehicle safety for the future. This tragic incident has raised questions as to whether the sensors that serve as a vehicles’ “eyes” are ready for the highways and cities of America. Will these driverless vehicles someday fill the streets of New Bedford, Providence and Fall River.

The Tragic Self-driving Car Incident

The victim was a 49 year old woman walking her bicycle across the street in Tempe, Arizona. She was crossing multiple lanes of stopped traffic when the self-driving vehicle failed to stop. The vehicle struck and killed her in broad daylight in what authorities say should have been “optimal conditions” for the sensors to perform properly, and despite the emergency back-up driver who was in the vehicle. After viewing video of the incident, some experts have noted that perhaps the shrubbery at that intersection, or possibly even the victims bike bags could have confused the vehicles sensors. Uber has since suspended testing of autonomous-vehicles in Tempe as well as in Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto.

Still in the “Experimental Stage”

Only about a decade old, this is still quite new technology and perhaps actual implementation is further away than previously thought. The companies and authorities who stand behind this technology believe that the cars will be safer than  cars driven by humans simply because they will take distracted drivers out of the driving equation. That being said this tragedy highlights the many unpredictable situations that an autonomous-vehicle may not be prepared for. 

The Law Offices of Dussault & Zatir

*The above is not to be considered as legal advice. Every case is different and the laws which apply may differ from state to state.