Regulars here would remember our recent report on how mankind could be a step closer to having driverless cars in real-world scenarios. However, a recent incident in Arizona leaves us to question whether these cars are really road-worthy. A 49-year old woman has been killed by a Volvo XC90 self-driving vehicle from Uber. Surprisingly, this happened even after the car had an emergency backup driver behind the wheel. The autonomous car couldn’t make the necessary corrections to its speed and direction after the unsuspecting lady suddenly got in front of the vehicle.
The authorities at Arizona approved a proposal by Waymo, Google’s self-driving car unit, to operate the first driverless ride-hailing service in the United States. Actually, Arizona officials invited companies like Uber to test their robotic vehicles on the public roads. Soon thereafter, the company suspended testing of self-driving cars in Tempe, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Toronto. The accident comes in as a rude reminder of self-driving technology still being in nascent stages. The recent incident will also push Uber, Waymo and many other tech companies to re-think their strategy of testing the autonomous vehicles. Much of the testing of these cars have taken place in a regulatory environment. However, states like that of Arizona took a slightly lenient approach towards testing of these vehicles on public roads in order to lure the companies, which have invested in the tune of billions on these cars.
Even the Federal policymakers are thinking of becoming a bit more lenient towards these cars. A senate bill, if passed, would enable self-driving car companies from the current regulations and safety standards. It will also pre-empt states from coming up with their own safety regulations. While a similar legislation has been passed in the house, at the Senate level a committee vote has been passed but the full floor vote is yet to be reached. “This tragic incident makes clear that autonomous vehicle technology has a long way to go before it is truly safe for the passengers, pedestrians, and drivers who share America’s roads,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut. It now remains to be seen if the testing of these self-driving cars would meet a roadblock of sorts until the companies ensure the due safety of other road users.