A woman has died after being hit by a self-driving car belonging to Uber in Arizona, causing the ride-hailing app to halt all autonomous vehicle testing in North America.
The pedestrian, named as Elaine Herzberg, was crossing a road in the city of Tempe when she was hit by the car, which was in self-driving mode but had a human safety driver behind the wheel at the time, Tempe police confirmed.
She was taken to hospital, but later died of her injuries. The accident is believed to be the first pedestrian death involving a self-driving car.
Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi said the woman’s death was “incredibly sad news,” adding the company would continue to work with local law enforcement as the investigation continues.
The company has paused all autonomous testing in the Phoenix area, alongside Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will send teams of investigators to the city.
Data from the car will be analysed to assess what went wrong, which could trigger an overhaul of the company’s self-driving safety software and holds potentially significant implications for Uber’s autonomous ambitions.
Some incredibly sad news out of Arizona. We’re thinking of the victim’s family as we work with local law enforcement to understand what happened. https://t.co/cwTCVJjEuz— dara khosrowshahi (@dkhos) March 19, 2018
Uber first suspended its self-driving car programme in March last year, following an accident in which the company’s self-driving Volvo SUV was left on its side. No one was hurt.
The first death linked to a self-driving car was reported in 2016, when 40-year old Joshua Brown was killed when his Tesla Model S vehicle failed to detect a large truck blocking its path and drove into it.
Uber has been experimenting with self-driving cars since 2015, and announced its intentions to purchase a fleet of 24,000 autonomous SUVs from Volvo in November last year. Its driverless cars racked up 2m miles by December 2017.