On Sunday night, a self-driving car operated by Uber struck and killed a pedestrian, 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, on North Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. It appears to be the first time a self-driving car has killed a human being by force of impact. The car was traveling at 38 miles per hour.
An initial investigation by Tempe police indicated that the pedestrian might have been at fault. According to that report, Herzberg appears to have come “from the shadows,” stepping off the median into the roadway, and ending up in the path of the car while jaywalking across the street. The National Transportation Safety Board has also opened an investigation.
Likewise, it’s difficult to evaluate what this accident means for the future of autonomous cars. Crashes, injuries, and fatalities were a certainty as driverless vehicles began moving from experiment to reality.