Last week, the first fatal pedestrian crash involving a self-driving SUV
occurred in Arizona. That crash involved a self-driving Uber SUV and has
been reported to possibly have far-reaching consequences for the new technology
as automakers and other companies race to be the first with cars that
operate on their own.
The crash occurred on March 18th in Tempe, AZ when a pedestrian was struck by a Volvo that was in self-driving
mode with a human back up driver at the wheel. The vehicle was part of
Uber’s self-driving test vehicles. Police identified the pedestrian
killed as 49 year old Elaine Herzberg. Uber immediately suspended all
road testing of the self-driving vehicles.
Many in the industry and legal community had been dreading a fatal crash,
but most knew it was inevitable.
“Although self-driving vehicles are being touted for their safety
and as being the technology of the future, they are far from perfect at
this time,” said Zach Campbell, an attorney at Metzger Wickersham.
Crashes like these unfortunately hurt the technology’s public image.
Although the budding industry is becoming more prominent, many states
lack any regulation regarding self-driving vehicles. This could change
as news of crashes like the unfortunate pedestrian death in Arizona become
Still, many people believe self-driving vehicles will ultimately make our
roadways safe. Anything to reduce the approximate 40,000 nationwide traffic
deaths and 6,000 yearly pedestrian deaths is a step in the right direction.
Self-driving vehicles can greatly reduce distracted driving, drunk driving,
and drowsy driving. Close to 95% of all crashes are the result of driver
error according to government reports. Reducing this by even half would
be a tremendous accomplishment and prove the upside of completely autonomous vehicles.
However, the self-driving vehicles as designed in their current state still
have limitations. These can play a major role in contributing to crashes.
Also, the automotive industry needs to take steps to ensure safety precautions
remain in place even if one the of the self-driving systems fail.
Here at Metzger Wickersham, we will continue to monitor the safety and
developments of self-driving vehicles to further protect our roadways.