It has been announced by the Governor of Arizona, that self-driving Uber cars will be banned from this Monday across the American state.
The new ruling comes in the wake of last week’s Uber incident which saw a self-driving car kill a pedestrian whilst in automated mode, the first incident of its kind regarding AI technology and a human fatality.
In a letter to the CEO of Uber, Dara Khosrowshahi, received yesterday, the Governor details that the move is to be executed by the Department of Transportation who have been ordered to ‘suspend Uber’s ability to test and operate autonomous vehicles on Arizona’s public roadways’ reports Forbes.
The decision was made by Governor Doug Ducey following the release of video footage of the recent incident. The harrowing videos, released by Tempe Police, document two angles which were videoing the front of the car and footage of the driver in the interior. The first clip shows the car travelling at some speed before hitting the pedestrian, Elaine Herzberg, at full speed whilst walking her bicycle across the road – to which the car does not adhere in any way. The inner camera interestingly shows the driver being less than focussed, constantly looking down and not monitoring the road to the best of his abilities. Both the car and the assisting driver inside failed to see Herzberg at all, resulting in the decision.
In response to the decision, Ducey highlights that the country ‘lose thirty eight thousands Americans a year in preventable incidents on our highways’ and this is why the cars are going to be taken off the road until more testing and safety is implemented.
This is not the first state to ban the self-driving transport amidst safety fears. It was during the start of last year, that the California Governor ordered the vehicles to be taken off the road following one of the cars run a red light. Since the automated car’s introduction in Arizona in February 2017 there has also already been one road collision in the state where a car didn’t respond to the autonomous Uber’s turn. Reports suggest that Monday’s new regulations will see the removal of 150 automated Volvo XC90 SUV;s cars withdrawn from the road as well as, it is believed, the company’s self-driving semi-trucks within the state.
The investigation is still being carried out by the National Transportation Safety Board and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regarding last Monday’ fatal incident and during this time the self-driving Ubers remain off the road. Though the videos are disturbing it remains somewhat inconclusive as to where the blame will eventually be placed. In the videos, the driver is certainly distracted by what might be a phone, however the pedestrian was also jaywalking in the dark. One clear technicality is that there was simply not enough time for the car’s sensors to react to the person in front.
As the debate surrounding the potency of Artificial Intelligence and its implications on human life continues, Google company Waymo are undeterred and are pushing forward with new plans for Arizona based autonomous ride shares.