Autonomous-vehicle technology has been touted as having potential to save fuel, ease congestion, and to save thousands of lives by avoiding accidents due to human error.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is sending a Special Crash Investigation team to the scene, an unusual step that indicates the agency is taking this incident very seriously.
US lawmakers have been debating legislation that would hasten introduction of self-driving cars. The incident has sparked an uncomfortable debate, though, about the many self-driving cars already on roads and whether they're ready to be there.
The NTSB said that driver inattention was to blame but that design limitations with the system played a major role in the crash.
Depending on who is found to be at fault, the accident could have far-reaching consequences for the development of self-driving vehicles, which have been billed as potentially safer than human drivers. "We see all sorts of driver-assist systems fail from time to time in the cars that CR evaluates".
He said he did not yet know how close she was to the vehicle when she stepped into the lane. The company envisages a network of autonomous cars being summoned through the Uber app that would supplement - and eventually replace - human-driven cars.
On the other hand, Uber has exemplified the rules-are-for-suckers-and-chumps approach to this testing process, rushing to markets like Arizona where they can test without having the filthy fingers of government nannies tell them what to do.
The accident is unlikely to set a legal precedent, says Ryan Calo, who is researching the legal implications of vehicle autonomy at the University of Washington. The operator was identified as 44-year-old Rafael Vasquez. Volvo and Toyota, which have self-driving partnerships with Uber (or were negotiating deals), have declined to comment on the future of their relationship with Uber. The company then started testing in Arizona in early 2017.
Ducey's office expressed sympathy for Herzberg's family and said safety is the top priority.
In a statement about the crash released earlier today, National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) executive director Linda Bailey echoed this sentiment that AV technology must be able to safely interact with all users of the street, no matter what the conditions: "People on bikes, on foot, or exiting a parked car on the street, in or out of the crosswalk, at any time of day or night". Promising to keep oversight light, they invited the companies to test their robotic vehicles on the state's roads.
"If we are still learning at this rate, and still uncovering major problems, it begs the question of why we are trying to put this technology into widespread use", Cummings told AFP. Srijon Das, who also works in the neighborhood, had a different view.
The crash will likely lead to an intense round of finger-pointing among law enforcement, regulators, tech experts, and the auto industry.
Uber said they are co-operating with the investigation and are halting testing operations on the public roads of four cities, including the two vehicles it had been operating in Toronto.