Uber has become one of the most popular ride services in the country. It is available in almost every major city and surrounding suburbs. The service has been in and out of the news since its inception and this month is no different. The company made headlines when a self-driving Uber vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona towards the end of March.
When news of the fatal crash broke many within the automotive industry began to question how the industry can move forward with self-driving vehicles. The topic was discussed in depth at the 2018 Automotive Forum, which is hosted by J.D. Power and Associates and the National Automobile Dealers Association.
Not all of the details of the crash are yet available, but federal regulators spent one week combing the site of the crash for answers. In order for the automotive industry to move forward with self-driving cars it needs all of the answers regarding the crash and it needs to proceed with extreme caution due to the loss of life.
This is not the first time a fatal accident has occurred involving a self-driving vehicle. In 2016, a Tesla Model S hit a truck when its semi-autonomous program was active. It was concluded after an investigation that the vehicle’s ‘operational design’ allowed the driver to put too much reliance on the Autopilot feature. The system has since been updated by Tesla so that drivers are discouraged from taking their hands off the wheel even when the program is active.
Automotive industry leaders who spoke at the conference don’t know what the accident will do to the industry or how it will affect trust. The industry leaders know that trust will need to be built up during this chapter of the self-driving initiative.
One speaker, Karl Iagnemma of NuTonomy, went as far as saying he cannot predict the type of impact this one accident could have on the entire self-driving industry or the progress moving forward. He also noted that there is a risk involved that the public could come to their own conclusions or assumptions about the self-driving industry based on this one accident.
The accident is being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board and fatal investigations can take anywhere from 12 to 24 months to complete. Uber has already suspended its self-driving program in response to the accident, which involved a Volvo XC90. Toyota also announced it would put a halt to its tests of self-driving vehicles until the results of the investigation are released.
Other industry professionals have said that the automotive industry will need to be able to prove that self-driving vehicles are ‘orders of magnitude’ safer than vehicles driven by humans in order to gain the public’s trust.
Testing will need to continue in order to determine exactly how safe self-driving vehicles can be when compared to human-driven vehicles. The legal and regulatory system will also need to be tested to find out where these safety points come into play.