Arizona halts Uber’s driverless car trials after fatality

State’s governor had been an advocate of self-driving vehicles

One of Uber’s self-driving Volvo XC90s was involved in the Arizona incident
(Image credit: This content is subject to copyright.)

Arizona governor Doug Ducey has suspended Uber from testing its driverless cars in the US state after a woman was killed by one of the company’s self-driving vehicles.

In a letter to Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi, the Republican governor said he found video footage of the accident on 18 March, which was released to the public last Wednesday, to be “disturbing and alarming”.

The governor went on to say that he expected tech firms operating prototype driverless cars to make public safety a “top priority”. But Ducey called the accident an “unquestionable failure to comply with this expectation”.

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“We proactively suspended self-driving operations in all cities immediately,” he said.

Governor Ducey had been an advocate of driverless cars prior to the incident, The Guardian says, with the move marking a “major step back” from his “embrace” of the technology.

In December 2015, the governor “welcomed” a number of driverless vehicle firms, including Uber, to test their prototype vehicles on public roads “under few, if any, regulations”, the newspaper says.

Responding to the governor’s letter on Twitter, an Uber spokesperson said the ride-sharing firm “proactively suspended self-driving operations in all cities immediately following the tragic incident last week”.

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However, the spokesperson said Uber would “keep a dialogue open with the governor's office” over any concerns they may have.

The incident has also prompted claims from several self-driving car firms that their technology would have been able to detect the pedestrian and avoid her.

John Krafcik, chief executive at Google’s driverless firm Waymo, told Forbes: “We're very confident that our car could have handled that situation.”

The head of Intel’s Mobileye, Amnon Shashua, revealed in a blogpost that technology developed by its driverless division would have also identified the woman.

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