The Cassidy Law Firm Blog

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Examining Uber’s First Fatal Self-Driving Car Accident

Are self-driving vehicles safe?

A recent fatal accident involving an Uber self-driving vehicle is gathering national attention and concern. Accident reports reveal that the Uber vehicle was being tested in autonomous mode in Arizona. It was traveling at approximately 38 miles per hour when a pedestrian wheeling her bicycle suddenly stepped into the path of the car.  The human driver did not react in time and the vehicle hit the pedestrian, killing her. Now, Uber has suspended the operation of its autonomous vehicles and others are calling for a reexamination of the safety of autonomous cars.

Autonomous Vehicle Regulations Remain Lax

Nationwide, federal and state legislatures have generally embraced self-driving car technology.  Several states allow for the testing of autonomous vehicles on public roads, with each state imposing unique licensing requirements. California, for example, allows for self-driving vehicles but requires that companies testing these cars provide annual safety reports. Arizona, a favored location for many AV companies, does not require special permits or licensing to test the vehicles in the state.

Impressive Safety Record

Despite this recent fatal accident in Arizona, self-driving vehicles as a whole have an impressive safety record. Self-driving vehicles have already driven millions of miles across the nation. In California, a popular state for testing self-driving vehicles, there have been only 34 reported accidents since 2014. Just four of these accidents were deemed the fault of the autonomous car, and most were traveling at extremely low rates of speed.

In contrast, human drivers cause millions of accidents annually. Human error is the number one cause of all car accidents. Of the estimated 40,000 traffic deaths in the United States, over 90 percent of them were caused by human error, according to the National Safety Council.  

Investigations into the Uber fatal pedestrian accident revealed that the human driver was looking down at the time of the crash and did not have his hands above the wheel in the ready position, as company policy requires. Uber has already reached a settlement with the family of the deceased pedestrian. It is likely that in the wake of this accident, federal agencies may seek to pass regulations to create national standards for the testing of autonomous vehicles.

If you have been involved in an accident with a self-driving vehicle, contact a personal injury lawyer today.


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