Earlier this week, a woman was killed by a self-driving car in Tempe, Arizona.
The news certainly shocked many, as the vehicle belonged to giant car-sharing company Uber, and it’s a self-driving car: something that was marketed to be be safe.
It also raised concerns regarding our reliance on technology to take over our daily duties.
Even though we are still quite far away from being ‘dominated’ by these smart tech, here are ten facts on the incident that we should keep at the back of our mind, lest the day comes soon.
1. First of its kind
The incident happened just this week and is the first reported fatal crash in the US, involving a self-driving vehicle and a pedestrian.
However, it is certainly not the first fatal accident caused by self-driving technology.
In 2016, a Model S belonging to Tesla Motors was driving in autonomous mode when it crashed into an 18-wheel tractor-trailer.
According to Guardian, the sensors of the car did not detect the huge vehicle while it was on the highway.
The car continued at full speed and the collision killed the driver behind the wheels.
It’s kinda obvious that the test run has shown how unready we are to embrace this powerful technology.
2. The driver
The self-driving car was in autonomous mode at the point of crash, and there was a driver behind the wheels, ready to take over in case of emergency.
Well, she might not have done so.
After investigations into the matter, the police revealed two videos of the car – one inside and one outside.
Just take a look. You’ll be shocked at how this could be avoided altogether.
The interior video (0:11) showed that the driver was looking at something inside the vehicle and not on the road at the time of the collision.
She repeatedly looked up and down and was ultra shocked when she realised the disaster that was happening in front of her.
C’mon man, you only had one job. I wonder how is she gonna live with this guilt.
3. All about the autonomous mode
As I mentioned, the car was in autonomous mode at the point of crash, which basically means that it was driving itself.
While this smart technology is supposed to help detect obstacles and improve safety, it has also had its fair share of accidents.
Recently, a Tesla was found in the middle of a five-lane highway with a sleeping driver behind the wheel.
The car was on “autopilot”, which is Tesla’s semi-autonomous driver assist system. The driver was later arrested for suspected drunk driving.
As you can see, to take a further step in mankind, we must first solve our own problems.
In a separate incident, another Tesla car rear-ended a fire truck on a freeway.
It was found that the car was also in autonomous mode, with a driver behind the wheels.
How did these people get their jobs in the first place?
These incidents that could have been prevented simply amplifies stupidity.
4. Endangering herself
According to The New York Times, the victim was walking outside of the crosswalk with her bicycle.
Hence, in the first place, she was already putting herself in danger.
The 2017 Volvo SUV was travelling at 40miles/hour (about 64km/h) and showed no signs of slowing or stopping before the crash.
The woman did not die on the scene, but in a hospital later on.
5. Not Uber’s first
However, this is not the first ugly spot on Uber’s report book.
Uber has been testing its self-driving cars in numerous states over the years.
In 2016, when they first began testing in California, their vehicles were caught running red lights.
This is a reason why I’m not a fan of self-driving technology myself.
Uber, Waymo and a long list of tech companies and automakers have already begun to expand their self-driving tests around the country.
On the topic of safety, the companies commented that the self-driving vehicles will certainly be safer.
This is because “distracted humans” are “out of the driving equation”.
But don’t you find it ironic that these “distracted humans” are obstructing the development of the technology?
7. Stop testing
Uber has since then ceased its self-driving car operations in Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto.
Other companies (yes, there are many companies testing self-driving cars, and Google is one of them) have not mentioned if they will be following suit as well.
State regulators have also yet to indicate their next plan for self-driving vehicles on public roads.
8. Few more weeks to go
Regulators in California and elsewhere have been quite welcoming to this technology lately.
Just several weeks later in April, California is going to be the second state to allow companies to test cars without a driver (i.e. no one in the car at all to operate in case of an emergency).
Arizona was the first state to do so, according to The New York Times.
Additionally, if passed, a Senate bill can free autonomous-car makers from some safety standards.
This can prevent states from making their own vehicle safety laws.
Well, wake up people. I’m sure there’s more to be done first.
9. About Tempe (where the accident happened)
Tempe is well-known for its dry weather and wide roads, which are the best conditions for driving.
Hence, it is a top spot for those that want to test autonomous vehicles.
In 2015, Arizona officials declared the state to be a regulation-free zone so as to attract these testing operations from big companies like Uber, Waymo and Lyft.
10. Will Uber be fined?
Local prosecutors have yet to decide whether criminal charges are warranted.
There have definitely been supporters to demand Uber be responsible.
Under Arizona’s new rules set by the governor, who happens to be a strong supporter of the technology, an Uber-like company can be criminally liable if an autonomous car got involved in a fatal accident.
On the other hand, police chief Sylvia Moir suggested that Uber wasn’t the one at fault; it was the driver in the car (remember how she was looking at something else?).
Although investigations are still ongoing, the answers are pretty clear.
Humankind is too ambitious to discover a new technology, so much so that safety has been compromised.
Maybe they should reconsider who to let behind the wheels, before searching for any breakthrough.
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