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Uber self-driving car kills a pedestrian in Arizona [Update]

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The victim was 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg

Scene of the crash at Mill Avenue and Curry Road in Tempe, Arizona.
Via Google

Update: Police released footage of the Uber self-driving car that killed 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg. Among other things, the video shows the pedestrian didn’t just jump out from nowhere. In addition to the car’s sensors failing to pick up the presence of a human being, the vehicle’s “safety driver” was looking down shortly before the crash.

You can watch the video here.

Uber has yet to provide specifics on how their technology failed to stop the vehicle.

As Curbed noted earlier this week, “Arizona has the highest rate of pedestrian deaths in the nation. Ten pedestrians were killed in the state just in the past week. Last Tuesday, three seniors were killed by a single driver in nearby Fountain Hills. They were all walking in marked crosswalks.”

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Uber has temporarily stopped self-driving tests in all cities after one of its cars killed a pedestrian Sunday night in Tempe, Arizona.

Tempe police responded to a collision at Mill Avenue and Curry Road at 10 p.m. Sunday night. The report notes that Uber’s vehicle was “traveling northbound just south of Curry Road when a female walking outside of the crosswalk crossed the road from west to east when she was struck.”

Police have identified the victim as 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, according to the Verge. Herzberg died at a local hospital from her injuries.

However, ABC 15 footage shows a bike with a bent wheel at the scene. [Update: According to reporter Angie Koehle‏, “Tempe Police say woman killed by self-driving Uber car was pushing bicycle across street when struck.”]

Image via ABC 15

The ride-hailing company said the car, a Volvo XC90 SUV, was in autonomous mode with a safety driver at the wheel during the fatal crash.

This isn’t the first time a person has been injured by a self-driving car. A similar Uber vehicle was involved in a nonfatal crash a little over a year ago in Tempe, and a GM self-driving car injured a motorcyclist in San Francisco’s Haight District in December.

“Our hearts go out to the victim’s family. We are fully cooperating with local authorities in their investigation of this incident,” Uber spokeswoman Sarah Abboud said in a statement.

Company CEO Dara Khosrowshahi tweeted the following in response to the incident.

The company’s pilot projects in Phoenix, Pittsburgh, SF, and Toronto have halted as of now.

Uber’s autonomous fleet has met with derision in San Francisco and elsewhere. The company’s fleet of self-driving Volvos were banned in California due to safety concerns in 2016, though they returned after the city backed down. The ride-hailing company even refused to play nice with the Department of Motor Vehicles.

San Francisco mayor Mark Farrell called on companies toying with self-driving vehicles to prove their technology is safe.

“Bottom line is, we have zero control over the regulations,” Farrell told the San Francisco Examiner. “My first job as mayor of San Francisco is to look out for the safety of our residents. Full stop.”

Most recently, motorists and pedestrians have taken to attacking the cars as a form of protest.

Tempe Police Department will hold a press conference at 3 p.m. today to talk more about the fatal crash.

Update: According to the Verge, “The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board has opened an investigation into the crash and is sending a small team to Tempe.”

The SF Bicycle Coalition also released the following statement regarding the incident, which, in part, reads:

Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Elaine Herzberg. The crash that took her life last night in Tempe, Ariz. was entirely preventable, and no one should have to experience the devastation they feel today.

Autonomous vehicle technology promises to dramatically reduce collisions and improve street safety in time. We’ve repeatedly warned Uber, however, that rushing out unsafe technology before it’s ready is unacceptable. When Uber launched autonomous vehicles in 2016 which made right-hook turns through bike lanes, we pointed out the danger of this illegal behavior.