A fatal accident involving a self-driving Uber and a woman has occurred in Arizona. This appears to be the first known death of a pedestrian and a self-driving vehicle on the roadways in the United States. According to reports, the Uber vehicle did have an individual behind the wheel at the time of the crash.
The crash is said to have occurred around 10 p.m. on Sunday and some reports indicated that the pedestrian may have been outside of the relevant crosswalk at the time of the crash. According to a statement by Uber all, self-driving programs throughout the United States and Canada have been suspended. Uber’s statements reads
“Our hearts go out to the victim’s family. We are fully cooperating with local authorities in their investigation of this incident”.
This crash will likely intensify the debate surrounding the testing of self-driving cars and how safe these vehicles truly are. Starting in April, California is prepared to permit further testing of autonomous cars. Specifically, California will no longer require an individual to be seated in the self-driving vehicle while the vehicle is traveling on the streets. Arizona already permits the testing of self-driving vehicles without an individual present in the vehicle and therefore technology companies have continued to move to Arizona to test their self-driving cars.
Some experts believe self-driving vehicles can pose significant safety risks as technology and computers attempt to adapt to real world unpredictable situations. Other instances of self-driving crashes have been reported however, this is believed to be the first fatal incident. A team of national transportation safety board examiners are headed to Arizona to investigate the crash.
Self-driving vehicles raise many interesting legal questions. First and foremost, who is responsible for a crash? Our civil justice system assigns fault when an accident occurs. In an ordinary motor vehicle crash, the driver of the vehicle or vehicles who caused the crash will be responsible for the harm caused. However, if a vehicle is a fully self-driving vehicle, an individual is not present in the vehicle at the time of the crash. Therefore, a single individual cannot be held liable. In this circumstance, the owner of the self-driving vehicle and or the manufacturers of the self-driving components of the vehicle may be held responsible for the accident. In many circumstances, a self-driving vehicle is equipped with aftermarket parts that are not manufactured and installed by the same company that made the vehicle. Therefore, responsibility may fall upon a company or manufacturer of a part other than the company or manufacturer that actually made the vehicle that was involved in the crash.
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