Fatal accident likely to put collaboration on hold.
Earlier this week, embattled Uber announced it would be suspending all self-driving vehicle tests in light of its car killing an Arizona woman. Some early reports indicate the car may have not attempted to slow down as it approached the pedestrian, despite the presence of an on-board human driver.
The fatal incident with the autonomous road test and the pedestrian occurred on Sunday, March 18, only two days after Uber announced a lucrative deal in the works with automaker Toyota, one that would see Uber’s technology installed in Toyota minivans in the near future. This effort at forging a partnership would take place under Toyota’s $2.8 billion autonomous vehicle project.
Obviously, deals already in the works are derailed due to Uber’s plug-pulling announcement, but had Uber not decided to step back from further testing, Toyota has also decided to suspend its fleet of vehicles‘ road tests for a short time. The automaker has been road testing its vehicles in four different US cities, and will hold off on further tests until a full investigation has been conducted.
Public vote on future
Volvo has also had deals in the works to deploy Uber’s technology in their attempts at an autonomous vehicle, but has not made a public announcement about the status of the relationship. What is certain, however, is the volume of criticism from experts and advocates who feel that the race to get self-driving cars on the streets has resulted in a potential risk to public safety. One editorial writer even suggested that the public should be allowed to vote on whether or not these vehicles come to fruition, considering they have little to no warning that a driverless vehicle is approaching.
Meant to be safer
The irony to this development is that safety experts have supported autonomous vehicle technology and advancement as a means to reduce traffic accidents due to driver-error. With parameters that would prevent drivers from disregarding speed limits and traffic signs, all road users should have been safer with the influx of self-driving technology. It remains to be seen if the anticipated benefits will actually take place.