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Apr 18, 2018

On March 18, 2018, a self-driving car owned and operated by Uber struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. The incident is the first of its kind, and the first reported death of a pedestrian caused by an autonomous vehicle. Not only is the incident tragic, but it also raises a number of questions about why the accident occurred and the failure of the self-driving technology, and who will be liable for this accident and any others like it that occur in the future.

Pedestrian Killed by Uber Vehicle - What Happened?
According to an article published in The New York Times which provided a summarized account of the accident, the crash occurred when the Uber vehicle (which was in autonomous mode, but did have a human driver inside) was traveling at about 40 miles per hour. Reports indicate that the pedestrian who was hit, a 49-year-old woman, was walking her bicycle across the street at the time of crash.

It appears that the pedestrian was crossing the street without the right-of-way, and perhaps was acting in a negligent manner as such. Regardless, however, the dashboard cam within the self-driving car also shows that the Uber driver appeared to be distracted at the time of collision, was looking down from the road, and did not have their hands hovering above the steering wheel, prepared to take over should doing so be necessary (safety drivers trained by Uber are instructed to keep hands above wheel). That being said, experts are saying that the Uber vehicle's technology failed dramatically; the car should have been able to detect the woman crossing the road, and applied the brakes or attempted to alter the vehicle's direction to avoid the collision. It is unclear why the technology failed so egregiously. In fact, the technology is supposed to be able to detect objects that are hundreds of feet away, and is lauded as especially beneficial because it is supposedly able to detect objects at night (the accident occurred at about 10:00 p.m.).

Who's Liable for the Incident?
Both parties in the case (the decedent's family and their representatives and Uber and its representatives) will likely point fingers at each other and argue that the opposing party should shoulder some of the blame for the collision. There are questions to be raised about why the pedestrian was in the street in the first place, why the Uber driver failed to take evasive action, and why the Uber technology failed to function as designed. Uber may very well be held at least partially liable for the death that occurred, may be expected to remedy the technological failure, and may be required to provide compensation to the decedent's family.

In addition to the potential legal liability it is now facing, Uber's program has been placed on hold for the time being, with a spokesperson from Uber informing reporters that the cars remain grounded for now. This incident makes it clear that as advanced as technology may be, autonomous vehicles may not be ready for the roads, especially without drivers who are readily prepared to take over should the technology fail.

Accident Attorneys Serving Colorado
At the law offices of Anderson Hemmat, we find the pedestrian accident to be tragic, and offer our condolences to the killed woman's family and loved ones. We also remind those in Colorado who have been involved in motor vehicle or pedestrian crashes caused by the negligence of another party that they have a legal right to seek compensation for harm. To learn more about recovering damages after suffering injuries, call our legal team today for a free consultation. You can reach us online, or by phone at (303) 782-9999.

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