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Uber suspends use of self-driving vehicles after pedestrian death

Elaine Herzberg, a 49-year-old woman, was killed this Sunday night in what seems to be the first fatal accident involving a self-driving vehicle and a pedestrian. The accident occurred in Tempe, Arizona, when the woman was crossing a street and was hit by an Uber autonomous car. Following the fatality, the company released this statement on Twitter:

According to the local police, the woman was walking her bike across the street outside a pedestrian crossing when she was hit by the car, which was in autonomous mode when the accident occurred. Even though self-driving vehicles are supposed to detect pedestrians and act upon it, it is still too early to determine who is to blame for the accident, since there was a human monitor behind the wheel. The monitor, identified as 44-year-old Rafael Vasquez, was not hurt by the accident and was cooperative with the authorities.

Uber also announced it will pause its self-driving car operations in Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Toronto, a measure previously implemented for about a weekend last year following an accident that also occurred in Tempe, Arizona. Back then, an Uber vehicle ended up on its side but, thankfully, nobody was hurt.

It is not the first fatal accident involving a self-driving car, though. Back in 2016, a Tesla Model S driver was killed in an accident between his car and a trailer crossing the highway while the car's Autopilot feature was turned on.

Sources: BBC and The Guardian

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