On March 18th a pedestrian, while crossing a four-lane road, was fatally hit by a self-driving Uber car. The car was travelling at 40mph when the pedestrian, Elaine Herzberg (49) was struck. There was a human ‘safety driver’ onboard at the time, but as internal video footage reveals, he was looking down at the time of the accident. Although pedestrian fatalities are (unfortunately) not uncommon, this particular fatality raises many questions about the future of self-driving cars. Our uber accident attorney, Rafael Gonzalez, provides an overview of the questions this incident has raised.
This question hints at the possibility of Uber’s self-driving technology being at fault. If a human driver would have avoided the pedestrian, then logically the self-driving technology is liable for the fatality. However, as the video footage showed, the pedestrian was crossing in the dark where there was no designated crosswalk. It seems likely that even human drivers would have been unable to see the pedestrian.
Ultimately it was Uber’s self-driving technology which was in control and therefore should be treated in the same way that a human driver would be treated in such circumstances. Questions will be asked about how the car’s sensors and radars did not detect the pedestrian.
However, Uber may well argue that there is an element of diminished responsibility, considering the pedestrian was effectively jaywalking.
It is highly unlikely that this fatality will stop the momentum of automated cars. First of all, their previous safety record has been superior to that of human drivers. Second, the sheer amount of money to be saved by using automated cars will always act as a huge source of motivation to keep the project moving forward. The savings will come through not needing to pay drivers any more, plus through fewer accidents and subsequently lower insurance.
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