Uber Self-driving Uber SUV Strikes and Tragically Kills Pedestrian in Arizona


March 30, 2018

49-year-old Elaine Herzberg was recently struck and tragically killed while walking her bicycle outside a crosswalk in a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona.  According to Breitbart.com, Ms. Herzberg was killed by a self-driving Uber SUV traveling at approximately 40 miles per hour in a 35 mile per hour speed zone.  It was also revealed that the self-driving Uber was being tested by 44-year-old Rafaela Vasquez, who Uber hired for the purpose of monitoring the self-driving trials of its vehicles. 

According to the same source cited above, Vasquez has a criminal background as she has two felony convictions on her record, the type of which, and magnitude of the same are not specifically stated, and served a five-year sentence for attempted armed robbery.  In an interview, a Tempe, Arizona police spokesperson stated that at the time of the collision there were no signs that the tester of the self-driving Uber, Rafaela Vasquez, was impaired after the collision.

In response to questions from media and others, Police sources have stated that the vehicle was in “autonomous mode” at the time of the incident.  Autonomous mode is a term used to describe a vehicle driving own its own without, for the most part, human intervention.  Typically, when a vehicle is described to be in autonomous mode during the testing phase, it means that the installed software meant to control the vehicle dictates the course of the vehicle, but that in more cases than not, an actual person is behind the wheel, with the tester still allowing the vehicle to operate on its own. Presumably, an actual person being present during the testing phase is meant to be a safeguard for the purpose of attempting to prevent any incident or accident that may occur as a result of the vehicle operating on its own.  Unfortunately, this did not occur in the case of Ms. Herzberg.    

This senseless tragedy has prompted legal analysts to analyze new liability issues that will most likely arise as a result of Elaine’s death resulting from being struck by a vehicle controlled by technology that, until in recent years, has seemed unimaginable.  Some legal experts opine that lawsuits from injuries and/or deaths in the future may be focused on the actual software that controls self-driving vehicles.

Friends of Elaine Herzberg feel that Uber was negligent in its testing phase of its self-driving vehicles and should be shut down as a result of the same.  Specifically, one unidentified friend of Ms. Herzberg was quoted as stating, “Uber should be shut down for it.  There has to be a bigger punishment than not allowing them to drive it on the street.” 

It should be noted that as a result of Ms. Herzberg’s death due to being struck by a self-driving Uber, that on March 26, 2018, Arizona Governor suspended Uber’s autonomous testing vehicle privileges in the state.

Because self-driving vehicles may become more prevalent on the roads in the United States as technology advances are made, one should ask what price do we pay for the same?  Do we want to lose our life or the life of a loved one if companies do not take adequate precautions to ensure the software operating such vehicles has been properly tested and is safe?  Do we want to risk injuries if companies such as Uber conducing these tests do not do so in a responsible manner?  The resounding answer to these questions should be no!

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Category: Auto Accidents

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