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Self-driving Uber car kills Arizona woman crossing street

From Reuters - March 19, 2018

TEMPE, Ariz./SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - An Uber self-driving car hit and killed a woman crossing the street in Arizona, police said on Monday, marking the first fatality caused by an autonomous vehicle and a potential blow to the technology expected to transform transportation.

The ride services company said it was suspending North American tests of its self-driving vehicles.

So-called robot cars, when fully developed by companies including Uber, Alphabet Inc and General Motors Co, are expected to drastically cut down on motor vehicle fatalities and create billion-dollar businesses. But Mondays accident underscored the potential challenges ahead for the promising technology as the cars confront real-world situations involving real people.

The accident spurred immediate reaction from U.S. lawmakers who have been debating whether to pass legislation that would speed introduction of self-driving cars into the United States.

This tragic accident underscores why we need to be exceptionally cautious when testing and deploying autonomous vehicle technologies on public roads, said Democratic Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts, a member of the transportation committee, in a statement.

The Uber vehicle was in autonomous mode with an operator behind the wheel at the time of the accident, which occurred Sunday about 10 p.m. MST (0400 GMT Monday) in Tempe, a suburb about 11 miles (18 km) east of Phoenix.

The vehicle was traveling northbound ... when a female walking outside of the crosswalk crossed the road from west to east when she was struck by the Uber vehicle, police said in a statement, identifying the victim as Elaine Herzberg, 49.

Herzberg later died from her injuries in a hospital, police said. Further details on the accident were not immediately available.

Local television footage of the scene showed a crumpled bike and a Volvo XC90 SUV with a smashed-in front. Uber has been using special versions of Volvos SUV for its testing, but a Volvo spokesman said the autonomous technology used in the vehicle at the time of the accident was not made by Volvo.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said they were sending teams to investigate the crash. NHTSA also said it was in contact with Volvo, the Swedish car brand owned by Chinas Geely.

Canadas transportation ministry in Ontario, where Uber conducts testing, also said it was reviewing the accident.

WILD WEST

Uber and Waymo on Friday urged Congress to pass sweeping legislation to speed the introduction of self-driving cars into the United States. Some congressional Democrats have blocked the legislation over safety concerns, and Mondays fatality could hamper the quick passage of the bill, congressional aides said Monday.

ESSENTIAL TO UBERS SUCCESS

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