Firm-Wide blog

Fatality Pumps the Brakes on Driverless Cars

By Burg Simpson
May 29, 2018
3 min read

Maybe drivers are not quite ready to let go of the steering wheel just yet. At least that appears to be the message that states such as Arizona and California are sending after a deadly crash outside Tempe, Arizona.

One of Uber’s self-driving cars struck and killed a 49-year-old woman as she carried her bike across the street late at night. But it was the video of the crash, which revealed the vehicle’s human monitor not watching the road, that prompted Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to issue an executive order stopping Uber from operating any more autonomous vehicles (AVs) in the state. It is the first known fatality caused by self-driving vehicles in the United States.

While both the National Transportation Safety Board and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have opened investigations into the incident, California announced that it will not renew Uber’s permit to keep testing its fleet of self-driving vehicles in the state.

In the meantime, Uber has suspended all of its self-driving operations in the United States. The company has also settled with the family of the victim.

If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident of any kind, you need the help of an experienced Phoenix car accident lawyer.

Automation is all the Rage

Even though their progress has been slow, AVs have been big business. It is not just carmakers who see dollar signs, although General Motors did cut a check for $1 billion for a self-driving software company last year. Corporate giants such as Apple, Google, Intel, and Uber have all been pouring money into the software companies and parts makers that are behind the self-driving technology.

Intel is so bullish on AVs that it expects it to be a $7 trillion industry by 2050. According to data from the Brookings Institution, investors have poured more than $80 billion in technology related to AVs over the last three years. ABI Research analysts predict that AVs will make up more than half of all motor vehicle sales by 2032. Before this fatal accident, Uber expected their entire fleet of vehicle to be autonomous by 2030.

Doubts Remain Over Safety Concerns

If the tragedy has shown us anything, it is that these ambitions need to be tempered with the reality that these technological marvels still pose a very real threat to safety. That is probably why drivers remain wary of self-driving technology. New research from Solace Systems, a middleware company, reveals that 57 percent of connected drivers would not buy a driverless vehicle – even if cost were no object.

So far, the federal government has left regulation of self-driving vehicles up to the states, but few have done much about it. Arizona allowed self-driving vehicles – until recently – by way of an executive order. So far, only eight states and the District of Columbia have passed laws to regulate the operation of AVs, based on the latest available data.

There is little doubt that self-driving vehicles are in our future. But this industry needs time – and healthy regulation – to take shape in the safest way possible. If you have been injured in a car accident, let the accident injury lawyers at Burg Simpson’s Phoenix office help. Call our Arizona office at 602-777-7000 or fill out our Free Case Evaluation Form now.

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