Uber suspended all testing of its autonomous car technology Monday, after one of its self-driving vehicles struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona.
And the ride-hailing company is already facing heavy backlash.
“My inbox is already full of folks that are saying we need to call for a nationwide moratorium on autonomous vehicle testing,” said Andrew Hawkins, transport reporter at The Verge.
Sunday night’s accident is thought to be the first involving a driverless car. While there was a human behind the wheel, the vehicle had its safe-mode turned on.
But the technology has been championed by legislators and businesses trying to reduce the number of fatalities on the road. Across the U.S., 30,000 to 40,000 people are killed in traffic accidents every year. So far, the data on autonomous vehicles suggests they are far less dangerous.
Incidents like this, though, will test the public’s patience.
“We have a really high tolerance for deaths caused by human drivers,” said Hawkins. “We’re about to see what our tolerance level is for deaths caused by computer-driven vehicles.
“It would be really interesting to see how that unfolds over the next weeks and months.”
The National Transportation Safety Board is opening an investigation into Sunday’s incident. Last year, the NTSB looked into a fatal crash involving a Tesla car in Autopilot mode and ruled the automated system played a crucial role in the accident.
But the tragic incident might not have an impact on investors. Hawkins doesn’t believe they will pull their money out of Uber’s self-driving car project.
He cited the fact that the company hasn’t lost its ability to raise money “despite all of the scandals and various reports of illegalities that have been swirling around that company.”
Uber had been testing its technology in San Francisco, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, and Toronto.
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