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Autonomous Uber prototype kills pedestrian on public road

Autonomous Uber prototype kills pedestrian on public road

by Justin King

A woman in Tempe, Arizona, was struck as the vehicle was operating in autonomous mode.

An autonomous Uber prototype has killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona, apparently marking the first such death involving a self-driving vehicle.

Citing a police statement, The New York Times reports that the vehicle was operating in autonomous mode when it struck and killed a woman on public roads.

The incident occurred overnight between Sunday and Monday. The victim is said to have been walking outside a crosswalk, though specific details remain unclear.

An Uber spokesperson says the ride-hailing company is cooperating with investigators. Testing operations have been suspended in Arizona and other locations as the inquiry moves forward.

"Our hearts go out to the victim's family. We are fully cooperating with local authorities in their investigation of this incident," the company added.

Uber's race to establish a leadership role in the era of autonomous vehicles has been shrouded in controversies. The company sparred with the California DMV after launching its test program in San Francisco without applying for mandatory permits. The company eventually capitulated after one of its Volvo XC90 prototypes was caught on video running multiple red lights.

The latest incident could have significant repercussions for the broader industry as legislators draft new laws and companies struggle to fulfill the most optimistic time projections for bringing self-driving technology to market.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and National Transportation Safety Board will presumably launch an in-depth review of the Tempe accident.

Nearly 6,000 pedestrians were killed in the US in 2016, representing the highest total in nearly three decades.