Self Driving Cars: Accidents Derail Future of Travel?

by: The Knowledge Group

March 28, 2018


Uber and Toyota have pulled their autonomous vehicles from the road. The companies’ self-driving cars were being tested on roads in select cities throughout the United States up until one of these vehicles killed a pedestrian. The incident happened in Tempe, Arizona on Sunday, March 18, 2018. The victim, Elaine Herzberg, was a homeless woman attempting to walk her bike across a busy highway. This is the first fatality induced by a self-driving vehicle. These autonomous automobiles have been involved in numerous accidents yet none proved fatal until Herzberg passed away.

The Rocky Road for Autonomous Vehicles

Uber began testing autonomous vehicles two years ago in Pittsburgh. This ride-hailing company has also tested driverless vehicles in Toronto, San Francisco and the Phoenix/Tempe area. The Herzberg crash comes a year following Uber’s decision to temporarily remove self-driving vehicles from the road. The company initially pulled its autonomous vehicles after a self-driving Volvo sport utility vehicle was involved in a serious accident that left the automobile on its side. Furthermore, the first-ever autonomous shuttle bus also proved to be a failure, crashing on its first day.

Is It Time to Scrap the Self-driving Vehicle?

Some are calling to put an end to the idea of autonomous vehicles after the recent fatal accident in Tempe. However, such a decision would prove myopic to say the least. Those who closely analyze the Tempe crash understand it was the fault of the victim, not the vehicle. Herzberg walked her bicycle onto a busy highway with complete disregard for her own safety as well as the safety of drivers. Any human driver would have collided with Herzberg just like the autonomous Uber vehicle did.

Though Uber has halted tests of its autonomous vehicles for the time being, it will not be long until these uber-cool high-tech rides are back on the streets. The minor risk posed by hyper-intelligent, all-seeing autonomous vehicles pales in comparison to that of human drivers. Computers are not distracted by phone calls, text messages, loud music, talk radio and other vehicle/tech features. The question is when the vast majority of people will make the question to autonomous vehicles, not if it will happen. Though autonomous vehicles might not prove highly effective in busy and congested urban centers, these vehicles will likely prove to be safer and more efficient than human drivers in suburban and urban spaces.