This past week, an Arizona woman was struck and killed while crossing the street by a self-driving Uber car. During the on-going investigation, it has been revealed that there was a safety driver behind the wheel when the pedestrian was struck. This tragedy has sparked debate over who can be held liable in an accident involving an autonomous car, and in this specific event, will Uber be held liable for the woman’s death.
According to a report from Law.com, a woman in Tempe, Arizona was crossing the street outside of a crosswalk on the evening of March 19 when a self-driving Uber vehicle, a Volvo, struck her in a local suburb. The incident occurred around 10 p.m. and although the Volvo was in autonomous mode, there was still a driver in the front seat. The woman was transported to a nearby hospital and died shortly after.
As this accident is the first of its kind to occur, it serves as a reminder that this technology is still in the experimental stage and that new regulations and laws need to be considered in regulating the industry to protect the public. In the same article from Law.com, Consumer Watchdog’s technology project director John Simpson stated, “What this shows, unfortunately, is that these cars are going to kill people, and we need to understand that and think about the implications of that and the algorithms that are controlling the decision-making of these cars.” Other legal experts, like Todd Benoff at Alston & Bird in Los Angeles, argues the newsworthiness of this case relies on it being an outlier, “So far at least, in testing, these vehicles have shown themselves to be safe.”
It’s still unclear who will be held liable for this incident, as investigations have not revealed the cause of the accident. The fault could be linked to an error in the car, or in the actions of the victim. Benoff guesses that if the victim’s family wants to hold Uber and/or Volvo responsible for the incident, they will most likely file a product liability claim against the two companies instead of a negligence-based claim that would normally be filed against the driver of the at-fault vehicle.
Uber released the following statement: “our hearts go out to the victim’s family. We’re fully cooperating with Tempe police and local authorities as they investigate this accident.” The company has since ceased all autonomous vehicle testing operations in Tempe and other cities. While technology makes our lives easier, it also requires more caution than ever before. If you or a loved one has suffered a personal injury or wrongful death as a result of an accident related to a ride-sharing company, contact one of our lawyers at Schneider Hammers today. We are committed to helping those who suffered during a tragedy.