This day was always coming. Human drivers have been hitting pedestrians with cars for decades. When we started down the road of driverless cars, there was bound to be an accident involving an autonomous car and a pedestrian.
Tragically, an Uber driverless vehicle in Arizona struck a pedestrian and killed her. There aren’t a ton of details about the circumstances:
A woman in Tempe, Ariz., has died after being hit by a self-driving car operated by Uber, in what appears to be the first known death of a pedestrian struck by an autonomous vehicle on a public road.
The Uber vehicle was in autonomous mode with a human safety driver at the wheel when it struck the woman, who was crossing the street outside of a crosswalk, the Tempe police said in a statement. The episode happened on Sunday around 10 p.m. The woman was not publicly identified.
The woman was outside the crosswalk, according to the article. Was she running? Was it dark? Did she have on dark clothing? I’m sure I’m not the only one asking questions like this.
Are We Ready For This?
I’ve been seeing the relentless march towards driverless cars since I was a kid. Back then, it was Jetsons cartoons. Remember those? OK, maybe not you young folks. Then, it was Back to the Future. Now, we have actual driverless cars. If I’m being completely honest, it spooks me a bit. Maybe that’s the dad in me.
It’s easy to say “we’re not ready”. But, when will we be ready? Again, easy to say when a driverless car is 100% perfect, will never hurt someone. Is it good enough if driverless cars are safer than ones operated by humans?
Does a death change the calculus? Surely, driverless cars are no less safe today than they were a few days ago?
The Final Two Pennies
My “day job” involves emerging technology. We’re constantly evaluating new ideas from smart folks that want to start companies. I make an appearance at the Consumer Electronics Show each year to keep an eye on trends. Autonomous cars have been increasing their presence at CES on an annual basis. Does that mean we’re ready?
I’m very conflicted on this topic. The use of driverless car technology isn’t really a choice just constrained to one individual or company. The pedestrian in Arizona didn’t consent to having driverless vehicles on her neighborhood roads. Do crosswalks and jaywalking become impactful issues in a driverless car world?
The march of technology doesn’t often slow down for dissenters. There is a lot of money pouring into this sort of autonomous technology. These decisions are being made at a governmental level around the country. I’m really curious to hear where you stand on issues like this.
What do you think about autonomous vehicles on our roads? Would you get into an Uber without a driver?
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