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Uber halts self-driving tests after pedestrian killed in Arizona

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A woman was killed Sunday night in Tempe

Image: Uber

A female pedestrian was killed after being struck by an autonomous Uber vehicle in Arizona, according to ABC 15. In response, Uber has pulled all of its self-driving cars from public roads in the state as well as in the cities of San Francisco, Toronto, and Pittsburgh.

The crash occurred near Mill Avenue and Curry Road early Monday morning in Tempe, Arizona, police confirm. The Uber vehicle was headed northbound when a woman walking across the street was struck. The woman was taken to the hospital, where she later died from her injuries. Early reports suggested that she may have been a bicyclist, but that was not the case. Police have identified her as 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg.

Uber confirms that the vehicle was traveling in autonomous mode with a safety driver behind the wheel during the crash. That would make the pedestrian one of the first known victims of a crash involving a self-driving car.

The female safety driver was the only person inside the vehicle at the time of the crash, and did not sustain any injuries, an Uber spokesperson said. The company declined to disclose any additional details about the driver’s identity or qualifications. The vehicle is still in police possession. Data from the vehicle’s many cameras and sensors will no doubt prove useful to investigators when determining the cause of the crash.

The self-driving Uber vehicle involved in a fatal crash in Tempe, Arizona.
Image: ABC 15

“Our hearts go out to the victim’s family,” an Uber spokesperson told The Verge. “We are fully cooperating with local authorities in their investigation of this incident.”

This wasn’t the first crash involving one of Uber’s autonomous vehicles in Tempe. Almost a year ago, a self-driving Uber was knocked onto its side after another vehicle failed to yield and hit it. There were no injuries during the incident.

Uber began testing its self-driving cars in Arizona in February 2017 after California’s Department of Motor Vehicles revoked the registrations of the company’s fleet operating in San Francisco. Uber had refused to apply for a $150 permit to test the vehicles in the city.

Update March 19th, 12:58PM ET: Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi tweeted his condolences to the family of the victim.

Update March 19th, 1:28PM ET: The US National Transportation Safety Board has opened an investigation into the crash and is sending a small team to Tempe, according to Bloomberg.

Here’s the full statement from the Tempe Police Department regarding the incident.

On March 18, 2018 at approximately 10pm, Tempe PD responded to a traffic collision on Curry Road and Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. The vehicle involved is one of the Uber’s self-driving vehicles. It was in autonomous mode at the time of the collision, with a vehicle operator behind the wheel. The 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 by the Uber vehicle. The female was identified as 49 year old Elaine Herzberg. Herzberg was transported to a local area hospital where she passed away from her injuries. Uber is assisting and this is still an active investigation.