Questions Arise After Uber Self-Driving Car Kills Pedestrian

photo_7724_20081019-200x300Nearly 40,000 lives are lost each year due to traffic accidents in the United States. Rhode Island traffic fatalities alone were up 63% last year. Close to 94% of these fatal crashes are caused by distracted driving and human error. Proponents of self-driving cars claim that autonomous vehicles can greatly reduce the amount of traffic related deaths and accidents by removing these common causes. However, after a pedestrian was killed in March by an Uber self-driving car in Tempe, Arizona, opponents are raising questions about the safety of these autonomous vehicles. As auto accident injury lawyers, Tapalian Law knows that all too many crashes and injuries are caused by distracted drivers and human error not just locally in Rhode Island but all over the United States.

How Do Self-Driving Cars Work?

Previously we posted a Tapalian Law personal injury blog delving into how self-driving vehicles operate and some concerns surrounding them. We explained an autonomous vehicle works by utilizing a combination of sensors, cameras, radars, and lasers to detect and adjust to road conditions as well as other vehicles on the road. With technology improving daily, updates are constantly being made to the accuracy of these systems. Seemingly, an autonomous vehicle removes the issue of human error and distractions while driving. Alas, issues and concerns still remain like how the autos will react in various weather conditions and recognizing a pedestrian versus a face on a billboard or advertisement.

In the Uber accident however, it appears neither the vehicle itself nor the Uber safety driver in the car detected the pedestrian in the road prior to the crash. Video shots show the safety driver looking down and without their hands hovering about the steering wheel, as they are trained to be positioned in order to quickly divert a potential crash. Police state the Uber car never slowed down before hitting the 49-year old Arizona woman pushing a bicycle across the road.

What Has Changed Since the Pedestrian Accident?

Eight days after the fatal pedestrian crash, Arizona state officials ordered Uber to suspend its autonomous vehicle testing program in the state. Officials claim that Uber failed to prioritize public safety throughout the testing process, as was expected of them. After the incident, Uber ceased testing of its self-driving vehicles at its own will in Arizona, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, and Toronto. Uber also did not renew its permit to test self-driving cars in the state of California.

More Accidents Inevitable?

Advocates of self-driving cars say they need to be kept on the road in order to continue testing and perfecting the vehicles. The sooner all the malfunctions and glitches are worked out, the sooner these self-driving cars can begin to reduce the amount of traffic related deaths, accidents, and personal injury caused by car crashes. Challengers say more accidents and deaths from autonomous vehicles are inevitable and feel manufacturers need to use extra caution before allowing the cars on public roads. Others blame Uber, saying that Uber’s autonomous vehicles are not operating as well, or as safely, as its competitors like Waymo and Cruise.

Distracted Driving Still a Problem with Self-Driving Vehicles

Ultimately, it would seem driverless cars are exactly that, without a driver. But during testing modes manufacturers tend to have either one or two safety drivers in the vehicle depending on the circumstances and location. The purpose of the safety driver is to prevent a potential accident that is missed by the self-driving car. Since we cannot rely completely on driverless cars as there are still many issues to be worked out, a safety driver is necessary at this time. Ironically, it seems the safety driver was distracted in this accident, which doesn’t make the autonomous vehicles any safer than our fully driver-operated vehicles where we are easily prone to distractions and human error, both of which cause a huge amount of traffic related deaths and personal injury. Uber has some work to do and self-driving car manufactures have much to prove before these vehicles can be fully trusted on their own.

Have You Been Hurt in a Car Accident in RI or MA?

As an injury lawyer assisting car accident victims all over Rhode Island and Massachusetts, Attorney David Tapalian knows first-hand the serious implications a collision can cause. As personal injury lawyers, Tapalian Law sees the devastation of serious vehicle accidents, and we hope that eventually these autonomous vehicles find a way to eliminate the bulk of car crashes, collisions and related injuries and deaths. To be able to reduce the high number of preventable deaths and injuries due to car crashes in Rhode Island and beyond would be monumental. We look forward to seeing what the future holds. If you have been the victim of a car crash or other type of personal injury caused by another, don’t hesitate to contact Tapalian Law for a free consultation. Contact Attorney Tapalian at 401-552-5000 or reach us here.

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