AASHTO Journal

Uber Suspends Autonomous Vehicle Testing Programs After Fatal Collision

A fatal accident in which an Uber self-driving car struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Ariz., raised questions about the pace and regulation of on-road testing of such technology.

Following the accident late on March 18, Uber suspended its test program for the cars both in Arizona and in all cities where it was under way in the United States and Canada, news services reported.

The National Transportation Safety Board and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration joined local authorities to investigate the crash, CNBC said. Reports said a driver was behind the wheel of the Volvo XC90 that was operating in autonomous mode as it struck the pedestrian, who was reportedly walking her bicycle across the street that evening.

ntsb-logo.jpgTransport Topics reported that Uber also suspended its separate program that was testing self-driving commercial trucks.

It was not clear how long the suspension would last. Reports said Uber had suspended the program last year for three days after an Uber vehicle crash that did not result in any serious injuries.

The NTSB said that while it would have a team at Tempe for a week to investigate it would "not release any findings or determine the probable cause of the crash while on-scene. Those will come only after a comprehensive investigation of the gathered information and data analysis are complete."

Meanwhile, Congress in its omnibus appropriations bill for fiscal 2018 included $100 million for a highly automated vehicle research and development program through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

In the wake of the Uber crash, Shailen Bhatt, CEO of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America, said in a message to members that "we are deeply saddened by this week's tragedy in Arizona; every life lost is one too many. To prevent similar tragedies, it is important for a full investigation to uncover all the facts."

He added: "Let us not forget more than 100 people die every day in traffic-related crashes. This loss of life is unacceptable. Those of us who are dedicated to saving lives through the safe deployment of technology must be resolute in our focus to reduce the number of lives lost on our roadways."

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters union issued a statement saying it "is deeply concerned with safety and the testing of vehicles in autonomous mode on public roads and highways. It is sad and unfortunate that a life was lost in this collision. Steps must be taken to avoid these situations in the future."

A group called the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety issued a news release "to convey our strong objections to the lack of appropriate action and effective oversight by the U.S. Department of Transportation" in the development and deployment of autonomous vehicles.

Questions regarding this article may be directed to editor@aashtojournal.org.

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