The husband and daughter of a woman struck and killed by a self-driving Uber SUV in Arizona earlier this month have reached an undisclosed settlement with the company.
Elaine Herzberg, 49, was walking her bike across the street in Tempe on the night of March 18 when a self-driving Uber car with a human backup “safety driver” behind the wheel hit her. She was the first person to be killed by a self-driving “autonomous” vehicle.
Although Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir said video footage of the deadly collision indicated it was “unavoidable,” critics have questioned why the Uber vehicle’s sensors failed to detect Ms. Herzberg as she walked across the four-lane street.
But those questions and how they relate to Uber’s legal liability are some the issues the company may be able to avoid, at least publicly, with a quick settlement.
Ms. Herzberg’s death “presents an unprecedented liability challenge because self-driving vehicles, which are still in the development stage, involve a complex system of hardware and software often made by outside suppliers,” Reuters reported.
Uber and other makers of self-driving auto technologies suspended their operations after the deadly Tempe accident.
According to Reuters, Toyota North American Chief Executive Jim Lentz said the company will soon resume testing of its self-driving vehicles but warned that the inherent risks in testing the underdeveloped technologies mean there will be future accidents and deaths like the one in Arizona.
“There will be mistakes from vehicles, from systems, and a hundred or 500 or a thousand people could lose their lives in accidents like we’ve seen in Arizona,” Mr. Lentz said, according to Reuters, adding each accident would “really slow down the adoption of autonomous driving.”
Many safety advocates realize the potential of self-driving vehicles to save lives but caution that the industry is too rushed in its quest to move their self-driving cars and trucks beyond the testing stage and into city streets and highways nationwide.
Uber’s deadly Tempe accident remains under investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the Tempe Police Department, and Uber itself.