— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) March 19, 2018
A self-driven Uber prototype car struck and killed a pedestrian Monday morning in Tempe, Arizona, prompting the company to suspend its autonomous pilot program, taking place in a few cities around the country. The company did not say whether it was suspending its recently announced autonomous truck tests, which are also taking place in Arizona.
The National Transportation Safety Board has said on Twitter it will be “sending a team to investigate” the crash.
The company’s autonomous testing program was part of Uber’s ride-sharing program, in which riders could hail an autonomous Volvo SUV. According to an article published last month by The Verge, two Uber engineers man the vehicle and take over if necessary. Tempe police have said a driver was behind the wheel at the time of the fatal crash.
The Teamsters Union, which represents more than 600,000 drivers of trucks and other vehicles, issued a statement tonight questioning the safety of autonomous technology.
“The safety of autonomous technology is not proven, and there are many unanswered questions about how ‘driverless’ technology is supposed to operate. More than 600,000 skilled Teamsters operate trucks and other vehicles and are among the safest drivers on the road,” a Teamsters press release states. “The Teamsters Union is deeply concerned with safety and the testing of vehicles in autonomous mode on public roads and highways. It is sad and unfortunate that a life was lost in this collision. Steps must be taken to avoid these situations in the future.”
The self-driving tests were heralded by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, who took one of the first rides in the autonomous pilot program.
Uber just this month announced an Arizona-based autonomous truck testing program, in which it would be not only deploying self-driving trucks, but also would be testing so-called transfer hubs, where self-driving trucks would drop trailers to be picked up by manually driven rigs and vice versa. The company said a licensed CDL driver will be in the seat in these tests, too. The company did not say whether these tests have been suspended too.
Uber earlier this year agreed to pay $245 million to settle a lawsuit from Google sister company Waymo, who claimed Uber stole trade secrets related to autonomous tech, including self-driving trucks.