Are we ready for self-driving cars? Maybe not.
A fatal incident in Arizona earlier this year could be a sign that self-driving cars may not be ready for wide-spread use. For now, at least.
Earlier this year, a woman in Tempe, Arizona was struck and killed by a Volvo XC90 that was utilizing Uber’s autonomous driving system. Various reports suggest multiple contributing factors that lead to the collision.
A video camera inside the vehicle at the time of the collision showed the “safety” driver looking down at her phone moments before impact. Additional evidence shows that the driver was watching the television show “The Voice” on Hulu at the time. According to a 318-page report from the Tempe Police Department, the crash was “deemed entirely avoidable” if the safety driver had been paying attention.
Furthermore, according to a Bloomberg report, Uber disabled the standard collision-avoidance technology in the Volvo SUV prior to the incident. A spokesman for Aptiv, Plc, the company that provides the standard collision-avoidance technology parts maker for Volvo, says their technology had “nothing to do” with the crash. A company that makes parts for Aptiv said it tested its system with Uber’s video of the crash and that it was able to detect the pedestrian one second before impact.
Governor Doug Ducey has since suspended Uber from testing its autonomous vehicles in Arizona.
Despite this tragedy, studies estimate that autonomous vehicles would dramatically reduce road accidents, perhaps by even 90%. According to the NHTSA’s Federal Automated Vehicles Policy, 94 percent of car accidents are linked to human choice or error. The NHTSA states that automated vehicles could reduce the frequency of crashes by eliminating some human error on the roads.
The thought of autonomous vehicles on the roads is both exciting and scary. The benefits of this budding technology are abundant, but as this fatality illustrates, it has not been perfected.
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